updated 3/8/2006 10:25:00 PM ET 2006-03-09T03:25:00

A fifth member of the state’s hate crimes commission resigned Wednesday in a controversy over another panel member who is a high-ranking official in the Nation of Islam.

All five departing members of the Governor’s Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes are Jewish.

Alan Spellberg, a supervisor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, said in his resignation letter that the commission has been “damaged beyond repair” by recent events and that he can “no longer participate in good conscience.”

He would not comment beyond what was in the letter.

The four others who resigned said they were leaving rather than serve alongside Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad, minister of protocol for the Nation of Islam.

Criticism of her has mounted since she invited other commissioners to attend a speech last month by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in which he referred to “Hollywood Jews” promoting homosexuality and “other filth.”

Some former commissioners have said Muhammad should not be on the commission unless she repudiates Farrakhan’s criticism of Jews, gays and other groups.

Muhammad has not done that, but issued a statement last week saying she supports the commission’s goals of eradicating hate and discrimination.

Muhammad told a radio audience on Tuesday that she “respects” her minister.

“For those who try to condemn me because of the honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s remarks ... which were perceived by some as anti-Semitic, it’s ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous,” Muhammad said during an appearance on WVON-AM in Chicago.

Governor defends panelist
She was appointed in August to the commission, which has between 20 and 30 members, by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has said he did not realize he had appointed a Nation of Islam official until learning about it from news reports.

In a meeting with the editorial board of the Journal Star of Peoria, Blagojevich said he stands by Muhammad.

“I just don’t think I should hold her accountable for what someone else said, unless she subscribes to that view, and I have no reason to think she does,” Blagojevich told the board.

“As I said before, I was very strong in my condemnation of what Farrakhan said. ... It was hateful and anti-Semitic, and I condemned that. But I don’t agree, I don’t believe in guilt by association,” the governor said.

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