A group of Branch County ministers urged the community to allow freedom of religion after comments to Coldwater City Council on May 23.
This prompted Pastor Julie Yoder Elmore of Coldwater United Methodist Church and more than a dozen ministers to send a letter to the council.
“We make this statement because we believe our Savior calls us to stand up for what is right in the face of hatred and injustice,” the letter read.
Second Ward resident Kent Miller said on May 23, “I’m here regarding a daytime noise ordinance regarding the construction of the new mosque on Perkins Street.”
Miller expressed concern about the calls to prayer.
“I asked if there would be a call to prayer during the day five to six times a day, like they do in Hamtramck north of Detroit. I went there when it happened. And I don’t think the people of Coldwater really want to hear. And maybe that should be looked at before they’re done with this new building.”
The ministerial group felt that Miller was denigrating the local Muslim community.
Miller said: “I have no problem. They are human beings, but I don’t want to hear it in Coldwater. I guess I wouldn’t be the only one concerned. It’s not right if you don’t are not of that belief.”
Miller’s comments sparked a fierce debate on several Facebook pages and other community social media pages.
Elmore read: “As Christians, we believe that human diversity is a gift from God and reflects the diversity of our Creator. We believe that every person, regardless of faith, race, gender or other identity, is created in the image of God, and is therefore beloved by God.” The letter continued: “We believe that ethnic and religious diversity strengthens, not weakens, the Coldwater community. We believe that the freedom to practice one’s religion protects all people, whether Christian or non-Christian, religious or not.”
The Grand Mosque is now built to serve the local Muslim community, which comprises around 20% of the city’s population.
Coldwater has the largest Muslim community in Michigan, outside of Dearborn.