The pastor of Tulsa's Victory Church is apologizing for a racist remark, directed at a local political candidate, made by an employee who he has since fired.
Pastor Paul Daugherty said Saturday that John Brown, the church's director of human resources, had been released as an employee after a Facebook message surfaced in which he said he would like to see Kojo Asamoa-Caesar, a Democrat running to unseat Republican Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma's First Congressional District, "move back to whatever country he came from." (Brown is white; Asamoa-Caesar, who was born in Alexandria, Va., is Black.)
"We, at Victory Church, want to apologize publicly to Kojo for the statement that was made by one of our former employees," Daugherty said in a statement. "We want to apologize not only to Kojo, but also to every person who read those words and was impacted by them."
"I personally, and we as a church, do not stand by those hurtful words," Daugherty writes. "As a corrective step, we have released John Brown and are going to put additional workforce trainings in place to ensure the safety and sensitivity of those we serve and our employees."
In a statement, Asamoa-Caesar said that many Oklahomans had reached out to the campaign and to him personally to stand against racist remarks.
"The reaction of rebuke from the people of Oklahoma has been swift, resounding and unambiguous—the vast majority of us reject this kind of rhetoric," Asamoa-Caesar said.
"This kind of rhetoric is antithetical to the place that my wife, Onikah, and I have come to fall in love with and come to call home. It’s not the kind of language we want our 6-month old daughter, Hadassah, to hear while growing up in Oklahoma, where she was born." On Monday, Asamoa-Caesar's campaign manager, Adam O'Connor, told Public Radio Tulsa that seeing the comment made him sad, but not necessarily surprised.
"I was sad to see that somebody who was in such a high leadership position within our community felt empowered to send that kind of rhetoric to somebody who's running for Congress simply because of the color of his skin or his name or any of his policies," O'Connor said. "It was just completely uncalled for."
O'Connor said Asamoa-Caesar and Daugherty would be meeting for an in-person discussion on Tuesday, and that while Asamoa-Caesar believed Daugherty and the church were taking meaningful action to make amends, the candidate intends to bring up topics beyond this one incident with Brown.
"We are very hopeful for this church, which does have such a standing in our community, to move forward meaningfully on some of the harms that have been done, not only in this one incident but with other people who have reached out to us since this has all gone public," O'Connor said.
Asamoa-Caesar, a teacher, principal and executive who has lived in Tulsa since 2013, has not held public office. Hern has represented Oklahoma's First Congressional District since 2018, succeeding former Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R), who went on to serve as President Donald Trump's NASA Administrator. The seat was last held by a Democrat in 1987, when now-Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) succeeded James R. Jones.