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December 4, 2014 0

The Price of Religious Exclusion

The Town­ship of Bridge­wa­ter, NJ recently set­tled a law­suit filed by a local Mus­lim con­gre­ga­tion – the Al Falah Cen­ter – for $7.75 mil­lion.  The law­suit alleged that the Township’s expe­di­tious pas­sage of a new land use ordi­nance which effec­tively barred the Cen­ter from con­vert­ing a for­mer 15,500 sq. foot ban­quet into a mosque vio­lated the fed­eral Reli­gious Land Use and Insti­tu­tion­al­ized Per­sons Act (“RLUIPA”).bridgewater

In Octo­ber 2010, the Cen­ter signed a con­tract to pur­chase a for­mer Red Roof Inn with the intent of con­vert­ing it into a mosque.  A prior Town­ship traf­fic study con­cluded that the pro­posed con­ver­sion would not increase traf­fic.  And in March 2011, the Sum­mit County Plan­ning Board found that the con­ver­sion raised min­i­mal traf­fic issues and it con­di­tioned approval of Al Falah’s land use appli­ca­tion on instal­la­tion of a new traf­fic light paid for by the Center.

But six days after the County issued its find­ing and shortly before a new state law favor­able to the Center’s land use appli­ca­tion went into effect, the Town­ship adopted a new land use ordi­nance that effec­tively barred Al Falah from using the prop­erty for a mosque.  Inter­est­ingly, the same ordi­nance did not affect the oper­a­tion of the other sev­en­teen exist­ing houses of wor­ship within the Town­ship, none of which are mosques.

A fed­eral dis­trict court found that the Township’s actions likely vio­lated RLUIPA, as well as denied Bridgewater’s motion for sum­mary judg­ment.  The Town­ship appealed this deci­sion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The Inter­faith Coali­tion on Mosques (“ICOM”), which is spon­sored by ADL, filed a friend-of-the court (ami­cus) brief with the Third Cir­cuit in sup­port of the Cen­ter.  How­ever, the case set­tled dur­ing the pen­dency of the appeal.

Under the set­tle­ment terms, the Cen­ter will not build a mosque on the Red Roof Inn prop­erty.  But the Town­ship will pay $2.75 mil­lion to buy an alter­na­tive 15-acre prop­erty for the Cen­ter and Bridgewater’s insur­ance car­rier will pay Al Falah another $5 mil­lion for alleged dam­ages and attorney’s fees.

The legal set­tle­ment is not an admis­sion of lia­bil­ity or dis­crim­i­na­tion.  But per­haps it has taught the Town­ship and oth­ers munic­i­pal­i­ties an expen­sive and vital les­son: reli­gious free­dom in Amer­ica is for all faiths, not just some.

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November 26, 2014 1

Anti-immigrant Activist Provides Substantial Input For Georgia Bill

Accord­ing to a news­pa­per report, long­time anti-immigrant activist D.A. King pro­vided “sub­stan­tial input” for an anti-immigrant bill pre-filed in the Geor­gia Sen­ate for 2015. The bill seeks to block peo­ple who have received work per­mits and deferred depor­ta­tion through the fed­eral deferred action pro­gram from receiv­ing driver’s licenses in the state.d-a-king

King is the founder of the Marietta-based anti-immigrant group Dustin Inman Soci­ety (DIS) and has a his­tory of mak­ing big­oted state­ments and work­ing with the more extreme ele­ments of the anti-immigrant movement.

In April 2007, for exam­ple, when speak­ing at a New­ton County, Geor­gia Repub­li­can Party meet­ing, Mr. King report­edly claimed that undoc­u­mented immi­grants are “not here to mow your lawn – they’re here to blow up your build­ings and kill your chil­dren, and you, and me.”  Mr. King has also asserted that the United States is “being invaded and col­o­nized” by a “Mex­i­can mob that brings with it a cul­ture of law­less­ness and chaos.” Ear­lier this year, in response to chil­dren flee­ing vio­lence from Cen­tral Amer­ica and seek­ing refuge in the United States, King asserted that the chil­dren are “swarm­ing the bor­der and bring­ing disease.”

For a num­ber of years, King penned arti­cles for the racist web­site VDARE, founded by white suprema­cist Peter Brimelow. In one blog entry, he dis­cussed his expe­ri­ence at a March for Dig­nity, com­prised of, in King’s words, “mostly His­panic demon­stra­tors.” He wrote, “I got the sense that I had left the coun­try of my birth and been trans­ported to some Mex­i­can vil­lage, com­pletely taken over by an angry, barely restrained mob….My first act on a safe return home was to take a shower.”

King also has ties to racist John Tan­ton, the archi­tect of the mod­ern anti-immigrant move­ment. Tax deductible dona­tions to King’s DIS can be made through U.S., Inc., a group founded by Tan­ton. The pres­i­dent of U.S., Inc. is anti-immigrant extrem­ist K.C. McAlpin, Tanton’s right-hand man. McAlpin orga­nizes an anti-immigrant Writ­ers Work­shop event each year where activists, includ­ing a num­ber of racists, present on immi­gra­tion top­ics. King spoke at both the 2010 and 2011 Writ­ers Work­shop.  In 2010, other speak­ers included Jason Rich­wine, who left the Her­itage Foun­da­tion after infor­ma­tion emerged that he had writ­ten for a “nation­al­ist” web­site and had writ­ten his doc­toral the­sis argu­ing that the U.S. should focus its immi­gra­tion efforts on peo­ple with high IQs, and Kevin DeAnna, the founder of the now-defunct far-right stu­dent group Youth for West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion. In addi­tion, King is a con­trib­u­tor to Tanton’s anti-immigrant jour­nal The Social Con­tract, edited by racist Wayne Lut­ton.

Though King has demo­nized immi­grants through his big­oted state­ments, he con­tin­ues to be a major player in the immi­gra­tion debate in Geor­gia. His work­ing rela­tion­ship with politi­cians can impact immi­gra­tion leg­is­la­tion and the lives of immi­grants in Georgia.

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November 26, 2014 2

Activists Use Extreme Rhetoric in Response to Obama’s Executive Action

A num­ber of anti-immigrant activists and groups used extreme rhetoric in response to Pres­i­dent Obama’s exec­u­tive action on immi­gra­tion, announced on Novem­ber 20. For exam­ple, William Gheen of the extreme anti-immigrant group Amer­i­cans for Legal Immi­gra­tion PAC (ALIPAC) con­nected the Mex­i­can Civil War with Obama’s exec­u­tive action in an inter­view with the conspiracy-oriented web­site World Net Daily. Gheen stated, “Obama’s choice of this date [Novem­ber 20 is Mex­i­can ‘Rev­o­lu­tion Day’ or Mex­i­can ‘Civil War Day’ which is the equiv­a­lent of America’s 4th of July] for his depar­ture from his Oath of Office and the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion cre­ates a per­ma­nent sym­bolic rela­tion­ship between his actions and Mexico’s vio­lent rev­o­lu­tion­ary and civil wars from 1910–1920.”

William Gheen

William Gheen

Gheen also cir­cu­lated a Gary Varvel car­toon that depicted an immi­grant fam­ily climb­ing in the win­dow of a house of a white fam­ily while they are eat­ing Thanks­giv­ing din­ner with the cap­tion, “Thanks to the President’s immi­gra­tion order, we’ll be hav­ing extra guests this Thanks­giv­ing.” Gheen later claimed the car­toon “makes a very impor­tant point about ille­gal immi­gra­tion, bound­aries, the assault on Amer­i­can fam­i­lies and Amer­i­can cul­ture… and the real sit­u­a­tion in Amer­ica. And unfor­tu­nately for many Amer­i­can [sic], ille­gal aliens are lit­er­ally crawl­ing through their windows!”

A num­ber of activists asso­ci­ated with the extreme anti-immigrant group Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Reform (FAIR) also made com­ments about Pres­i­dent Obama’s plan on immi­gra­tion. When asked on his radio show whether Obama’s actions would lead to eth­nic cleans­ing, Kris Kobach, who is of coun­sel with Immi­gra­tion Reform Law Insti­tute (IRLI), the legal arm of FAIR, responded, “And the rule of law used to be unas­sail­able, used to be taken for granted in Amer­ica. And now, of course, we have a pres­i­dent who dis­re­gards the law when it suits his inter­ests. So, while I nor­mally would answer that by say­ing, ‘Steve, of course we have the rule of law, that could never hap­pen in Amer­ica,’ I won­der what could happen…”

Ruthie Hendrycks, a FAIR state advi­sor and head of the anti-immigrant group Min­nesotans Seek­ing Immi­gra­tion Reform (MINNSIR), posted a com­ment on Face­book call­ing for the fam­i­lies of undoc­u­mented immi­grants cur­rently in depor­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings to also be deported.

FAIR advi­sory board mem­ber and anti-immigrant extrem­ist Frosty Wooldridge, responded to the president’s action in his reg­u­lar col­umn on the News With Views web­site by espous­ing birther con­spir­acy the­o­ries. Wooldridge wrote, “We now face a man in the White House who doesn’t mind break­ing our Con­sti­tu­tion, paid for with the blood of mil­lions of men and women. In his youth, he chose to smoke pot, do drugs and lie his way through col­lege and into Con­gress. He lacks any com­pre­hen­sion of what Amer­ica stands for because he still hasn’t proven he’s an American.”

More extreme ele­ments of the anti-immigrant move­ment also weighed in on the issue. White suprema­cist Peter Brimelow, the founder of the racist and anti-immigrant web­site VDARE called for the impeach­ment of Pres­i­dent Obama. Brimelow also used the Novem­ber 20th announce­ment to call for the “imme­di­ate abo­li­tion” of birthright citizenship.

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