Interfaith Day At State Capitol Causes Stir In Rotunda

Jan 10, 2018

State Senator Neal Tapio (center) joins South Dakota religious leaders across many different faiths during Interfaith Day. He calls the event politically motivated. Organizers say the day is meant for South Dakotans to meet their religious neighbors.
Credit Lee Strubinger / SDPB

Religious leaders across the state are showcasing various faiths that exist in South Dakota.

The first ever Interfaith Day was held in the capitol rotunda on the second legislative day in 2018.

One lawmaker calls it a political move.

South Dakota Public Broadcasting's Lee Strubinger reports. 

For as long as Lutheran Bishop David Zellmer of Sioux Falls can recall, there’s always been a Lutheran Day at the state capitol in Pierre. But this year members from the state’s Muslim, Buddhist, Baha’i, Roman Catholic and Episcopalian faiths joined Lutherans in Interfaith Day.

Zellmer says different religious groups are getting picked on in South Dakota. He says that’s inappropriate.

“There’s all kinds of things we don’t know in this state. So, part of it is is just knowing who our neighbors are and having some appreciation for them,” Zellmer says. “We built this state with people from all over the world, and we continue to do that.”

But the event was not without contention.

Some lawmakers are calling for a working group to access the state cost of immigrant and refugee resettlement into South Dakota. That call is spearheaded by State Senator Neal Tapio.

Speaking to reporters near the event, Tapio says Interfaith Day is politically motivated.

“We have a domestic threat that’s going on right here in our country. Refugee resettlements and interfaith dialogue is a part of a war, it’s a silent part. It’s a part about taking away the Christian fabric of our nation,” Tapio says. “Now, some people are okay with that. That’s their prerogative.  But there are American patriots that want to fight.”

Tapio is rumored to run for South Dakota’s lone US House of Representatives seat. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and Dusty Johnson who is the former chief of staff to Governor Daugaard, are also vying for the seat on the Republican ticket.