FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – The executive committee of the Tarrant County Republican Party voted not to remove a Muslim doctor as a party vice chairman amid infighting over some members’ claims about his beliefs.
The vote was 139 to 49.
Shahid Shafi, a surgeon and City Council member in Southlake, will maintain his position after a small, but vocal minority in the county GOP called for his removal because of his faith.
“It tells me that we have freedom of expression. It tells me that we have freedom to organize ourselves. This vote has reaffirmed my faith in our country and our party,” Shafi said following the vote.
Shafi said he’s proud to be an American and a Republican.
One precinct chair who voted to remove Shafi has reportedly resigned.
Before the vote, Republican leaders around the state showed support for Dr. Shafi staying on.
“Religious freedom is at the core of who we are as a nation and state,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement Wednesday, “and attacks on Dr. Shafi because of his faith are contrary to this guiding principle.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Land Commissioner George P. Bush, also had condemned the effort to oust him.
Cruz tweeted at one point that discriminating against Shafi because of his religion was “wrong.” The First Amendment protects religious liberty for every faith, Cruz said on Twitter.
Former Tarrant County GOP leader William Busby earlier told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that some large corporate donors “don’t want to be associated with a party that’s going in the direction of excluding people based upon their religious beliefs.”
Shafi is one of two party vice chairmen and has worked for the party for about 10 years, including as a delegate to the state party convention. He’s serving a two-year term as vice chairman and his election in July drew one lone dissenting vote among the approximately 250 precinct chairmen who voted that day. That lone dissenter was O’Brien.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)