Editor’s note: The following was submitted as an open letter to John Bartosh, presiding commissioner of Jasper County.
Commissioner should treat residents with respect
Dear Commissioner Bartosh:
You are presiding commissioner for all of Jasper County. As such, you preside over all of us who live within Jasper County, and some of us are Muslim. Some are Christian. Some are Jewish. And we have other faiths represented, as well as agnostics and atheists. The United States of America was founded on religious freedom. As county commissioner, your job is to uphold the law for each of Jasper County’s citizens and protect us when necessary.
A Facebook post you made in June 2019 does not protect our Muslim citizens. As a public official, your deriding the Muslim faith sends the message that it is acceptable in Jasper County to slander Muslims and possibly even worse. Our county has already had a mosque burned to the ground out of hate; public officials need to be sensitive not to fan the flames of division and hatred here.
You stated that you consider the post to be a joke. Who would consider the post funny? Certainly not Muslims. Certainly not inclusive residents. Maybe you never considered how wrong your post was to make, but it was especially wrong for a man holding public office. Please consider, if you can, how you would feel if all things you hold sacred were ridiculed and defiled by a public official? I know it is hard because white Christians are the majority in Jasper County, and you have never had to think like anyone but a white man in a position of privilege.
What does a post such as yours teach our children? It teaches them that it is OK to make fun of someone else’s beliefs. It teaches them that it’s OK to discount an entire group of people because of their religion or their ethnic background and to use offensive, racist language and make racist slurs.
Honestly ask yourself what Jesus would say about your joke about Muslims. If you’re honest, you will admit that he would weep.
We all make mistakes. I have made many. And I do truly believe in forgiveness. But whether your intent with your sadly racist Muslim post was malfeasance or whether you are truly unconscious enough not to see how degrading and absolutely inappropriate it was for a public official to make such a disgraceful post, in order for you to regain an iota of honor, you need to publicly apologize for your actions. And then you need to resign.
All of Jasper County’s citizens deserve a commissioner whom they can see as honorable, someone who will uphold the law for everyone, and a person who will treat all Jasper County citizens fairly and with respect.
Jasper County leaders must speak up
Why is no one speaking out? Where are the voices of reassurance? When do we start standing up to the nonsense?
Recent events have come to light making it crystal clear that our highest elected county official, the presiding commissioner of Jasper County, does not care to represent all of the citizens who live here. Mr. John Bartosh’s cavalier reposts on social media of racist comments have no place in our community.
The events involving the commissioner’s underage son being shown in a video drinking in a bar and singing derogatory, inflammatory, racist words should be troubling to us all. Those actions are the impetus for Mr. Bartosh’s character to have come to light.
And yet here we are — more than one week later — and we have not heard a statement from anyone in a leadership position across Jasper County denouncing this. We should be standing up and shouting to every single person that this hate speech (let’s call it what it is) will not be tolerated.
There has been too much silence, too many underreactions.
We call upon every city leader, county leader, religious leader to speak up. This is the time — the time to lead. It is time to declare that hate has no place in our communities.
The silence is deafening.
Abi Almandinger, Dave Armstrong, Tymon and Kim Bay, Thomas and Tiffany Buck, Elizabeth Carter, Craig Diggs, Wendi Douglas, Sabrina Drackert, Tiffany Goar, Jeff and Tina Hallmark, Kara Hardesty, Alison Holman, Shawn and Andrea McGrew, Doug Osborn, John and Adrian Petticrew, Lora Phelps, Catherine Platt, Chuck and Terri Sanders, Jim Schriever, Laura Schwab, Mary Schwab, Jason and Melinda Simmons, Caleb Stiles, Seth Thompson, Mike and Tria Zeiter