ALBANY, N.Y. – New York State Police have been asked to investigate threatening online comments directed at state Senate candidate Sara Niccoli, whose Quaker faith prohibits her from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
The comments called for Niccoli's death or for her to be kicked out of the United States. They were posted on a Facebook page that criticized her refusal to say the pledge. The page has since been deleted.
"She is not a patriot," read one of the few comments that did not contain profanity. "She should be thrown out of whatever position she holds. Then put on a terrorist watch list."
Quaker teaching instructs adherents not to swear oaths. Niccoli stands while the pledge is recited but does not participate.
Two local officials from Palatine, Niccoli's hometown, wrote to the State Police and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday seeking an investigation.
Niccoli, a Democrat and currently the Palatine town supervisor, said Wednesday that she believes the attacks were orchestrated by her opponent in the upstate Senate race, Republican Sen. George Amedore of Rotterdam.
"This is coming from his backers and it's dangerous," said Niccoli, whose family operates a farm in Montgomery County. "It incites violence. It oppresses religious freedom. I'm not going to be bullied."
Amedore and his campaign denied any responsibility for the comments.
"Nobody should be attacked for practicing their religious beliefs. If she doesn't recite the Pledge based on that, it's her choice," Amedore said in a statement. "I personally choose to so I can show my respect for the veterans and the service men and women who fight and have fought for our country, and to give thanks for the blessings that God has given this nation."
Several Quakers have played significant roles in American politics since before the nation's founding, including William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania; suffragette Susan B. Anthony; presidents Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon; and Betsy Ross, who is credited with making the first American flag.
The letter to the State Police from Palatine Town Boardmembers Hank Vandenburgh and Niel Yerdon seeks protection for Niccoli and asks that investigators determine who created the Facebook page.
"Due to the heightened political rhetoric and charged atmosphere, these threats must be taken seriously," the letter reads.
A spokeswoman for the State Police said Wednesday afternoon the letter had not yet arrived.