President Obama called on Americans to “stand united” against religious-based violence, following the shooting deaths Sunday of three people at two Jewish centers near Kansas City, Kan.
“We have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism, that can lead to hatred and to violence, because we’re all children of God,” Mr. Obama said Monday at the annual Easter prayer breakfast at the White House.
In his remarks, Obama noted a personal connection to two of the victims, a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather, who were shot outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kan.
The boy, Reat Underwood, and his grandfather, William Corporon, were members of a church whose minister played a role in Obama’s second inauguration. The senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., Rev. Adam Hamilton, had delivered the sermon at the inauguration prayer service last year at the Washington National Cathedral.
“I was grateful for his presence and his words,” Obama said. “He joined us at our breakfast last year. And at the Easter service for Palm Sunday last night, he had to break this terrible news to his congregation.”
The teenager was at the Jewish Community Center, accompanied by his grandfather, to audition for a singing competition. After the first shooting, the gunman drove to a nearby Jewish retirement community where he fatally shot a woman. That victim, Terri LeManno, was an occupational therapist and mother of two.
Police arrested a man in connection with the incident, Frazier Glenn Miller, who has a long history of racism and anti-Semitism, civil rights groups say. Mr. Miller was the founder and “grand dragon” of a paramilitary-style Ku Klux Klan group in North Carolina, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala.
Miller will face hate crime charges, law enforcement officials said Monday.
In his prayer breakfast remarks, Obama gave voice to the public’s horror over the attack.
“That this occurred now – as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday – makes this tragedy all the more painful,” Obama said.
The president also offered healing words before the faith leaders and administration officials assembled in the East Room of the White House.
“We’re all made in His image, all worthy of His love and dignity,” Obama said. “And we see what happens around the world when this kind of religious-based or tinged violence can rear its ugly head. It’s got no place in our society.”