Melissa Joan Hart downplayed accusations of anti-Semitism, telling her Instagram followers that she did not tell her young son that Christians are superior to those who practice other religions.
The controversy began when she appeared on a recent Journeys of Faith podcast with Good Morning America's Paula Faris, telling Faris the advice she gave her young son, who was transitioning from a Christian preschool to a traditional school.
"We don’t know if these people are good people. We don’t know if they believe in Jesus," Hart told the boy, adding that "he really took the Jesus part to heart."
Later, she took to Instagram to clarify her quotes from the podcast. "I've been studying religion for the past 8 years and am learning more everyday. I try to never judge anyone... unless they put ice in their wine.... but I was simply telling my son that we knew the people at his old school, even down to their faith beliefs," she responded to a follower in the comments section of an Instagram photo shared earlier this month.
"The new kids in school, we didn't know a thing about so he was going to have to judge for himself," the Sabrina the Teenage Witch alum added.
"In the podcast I talk about how he focused in on the Jesus part and it opened up discussions with friends and neighbors that might be a [sic] tricky for children to navigate. I never said Christians are superior. Just trying to explain better," she concluded.
Hart, 42, shares three sons — Mason, 12, Braydon, 10, and Tucker, 6 — with husband, Mark Wilkerson; it's unclear which son she was talking about, as her story on the podcast extended until the boy was in sixth grade, by which time he had befriended a Jewish classmate at his new school.
While the boys were young, Hart said her son asked her, "If you're Jewish, how do you get to heaven?" Later Hart got a call from the mother of her son's friend after the boys talked about their religions. The "chats" with the mother got "a little more heated" after the boys reached sixth grade. "And some problems came out of that," she said, without elaborating, according to USA TODAY.
She said she believed in respecting other's beliefs, and questioned her decision to tell her son about the importance of Jesus at such a young age.
"When the mom [of the child] called me with a problem in sixth grade I was like well, ‘Do I regret telling my son that we don’t know if people believe in Jesus, so we don’t know their character?'” Hart told Faris. “‘Is that a wrong thing to say? Did I set my son on the wrong path or was that the right thing to say and I should defend that?'”
Many podcast listeners took to Twitter to complain about Hart's comments, with some even suggesting Hart was "anti-Semitic."
"Dear Melissa Joan Hart, posing the antisemitism you are teaching your children as a question, does not make you any less of an anti-Semite," one person wrote.
"Holy crap that's some casually dropped anti-semitism in a completely mainstream fluff piece... this is fairly terrifying and just gross," added another.0comments
"I'm pretty sure assuming someone's character over one factor is poor character in itself," another wrote.
Others, however, defended the actress. One wrote, "I support you raising your children in your faith and you should stick to your beliefs and not let anyone shame your [sic] for them. Tolerance isn't telling people what they can or cannot say, it is accepting that what we each believe and say may be different from what we believe, but acknowledging their right to believe or say it."