- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan member of the Republican National Committee who faces calls to resign over his anti-gay and anti-Muslim statements urged his supporters Monday to defend the free-speech rights of conservatives.

Dave Agema told about 70 people at a Grand Rapids fundraiser that America’s future depends on public acceptance of conservative values.

“There is a movement to silence the conservative voice in the GOP,” MLive.com (https://bit.ly/1f3o8Jp ) quoted Agema as saying. “Your voices must be heard. Principles matter. When we deviate from our principles, we’re going to lose this country.”

Agema said that as a U.S. Air Force pilot, he “was prepared to die to defend our Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

“My opinion is, we have domestic enemies at this present time,” he said. “We’re starting to become what I used to fight against.”

Agema, a former American Airlines pilot, served in the Michigan House, where he promoted legislation aimed at barring application of Islamic sharia law in the state. This month, his Facebook page included a posting questioning the commitment of Muslims to practicing charity.

At a Republican event in southwestern Michigan’s Berrien County last month, Agema said that gay people are seeking health coverage for same-sex partners and free medical care because they are dying of AIDS. He also has said that gays are disproportionately involved in urban homicides.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder indirectly criticized Agema in his State of the State address, calling on people to “work to bring Michiganders together, not divide” them.

Several members of Michigan’s Republican congressional delegation have called for Agema to step down. Michigan U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, the state’s other GOP national committee member, also has urged his resignation.

“All of those who came out against me had reasons they had to,” Agema told MLive.com after Monday’s event. He said influential party donors made “threats of removing money” from the campaigns of Republican candidates unless they attack him.

“This is going on through the United States,” Agema said. “You’ve got a small minority of people who are basically shutting down freedom of speech because they speak the loudest, they holler the loudest.

“The easiest thing for me to do is just say, ‘I don’t need the hassle,’ because it doesn’t pay a dime. But all the support I have says, ‘Don’t give up, Dave. We put you in there for a reason. You’re supporting the grassroots and we want that voice heard at the RNC.’ It’s bigger than just me.”

___

Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, https://www.mlive.com

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