It was Interfaith Day Wednesday at the South Dakota capitol in Pierre. About 50 people, representing several religions, gathered in the rotunda to pray; an example of people of different faiths coming together.
Then Sen. Neal Tapio, R-Watertown, the former state campaign chair for Donald Trump, happened by, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader says.
The group asked him to pose for a photo.
.@neal_tapio joins the Interfaith Coalition for a group photo. Immediately following, Sen Tapio started an impromptu press conference with a racist fueled rant filled with misinformation. #sdleg #HifromSD pic.twitter.com/7QzKoc4WuL
— South Dakota Voices for Justice (@sdv4justice) January 10, 2018
It was going well until Tapio shouted, “I don’t like being called a racist.”
He stressed the need to ban travel to the United States by Muslim individuals, particularly from Muslim-majority countries where groups have supported Sharia law.
“If you don’t have the freedom to leave a religion, is there a freedom of religion?” Tapio said. “And that’s the question we have to asks ourselves as a state.”
As Tapio stepped away from the group he told reporters that the interfaith day was a “political movement.”
Those on the steps continued to pose for photos, this time without him.
Around Tapio, coalition members started singing “America the Beautiful,” temporarily muffling Tapio’s comments.
— Sam Caravana (@samcaravana_) January 11, 2018
In a statement, Tapio said “hiding behind an interfaith group and then using terrorist style bullying tactics in the press is a slap in the face of every patriotic American service member that signed up to defend freedom.”