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September 16, 2014 0

From The Archives: Violence Against Women Act 20 Years Later

Twenty years ago, on Sep­tem­ber 13, 1994, Pres­i­dent Clin­ton signed the Vio­lence Against Women Act (VAWA), a law which reflects a core part of ADL’s mis­sion: the pre­ven­tion of bias-motivated crim­i­nal behav­ior. VAWA autho­rized gov­ern­ment action to improve crim­i­nal jus­tice and com­mu­nity responses to domes­tic and sex­ual vio­lence and pro­vided fund­ing for the estab­lish­ment of the National Domes­tic Vio­lence Hot­line. ADL’s sup­port for the law, which aimed to pro­tect women from vio­lence directed against them because of their gen­der, was a nat­ural exten­sion of its work on hate crimes. pres-clinton-bill-signing-1994-09-13

In 1996, two years after VAWA’s enact­ment, ADL added gen­der to its model hate crimes leg­is­la­tion, cit­ing the fact that gender-based hate crimes could not be eas­ily dis­tin­guished from other forms of hate-motivated vio­lence. In response to legal chal­lenges to VAWA fol­low­ing its enact­ment, ADL joined sev­eral ami­cus (friend of the court) briefs in sup­port of the Act. In 2000, in U.S. v. Mor­ri­son, ADL, along with a num­ber of other civil rights orga­ni­za­tions includ­ing Peo­ple for the Amer­i­can Way, the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Con­gress, and Hadas­sah, filed an ami­cus brief sup­port­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of VAWA’s civil rem­edy pro­vi­sion, which allowed sur­vivors of gender-motivated vio­lence to sue their attack­ers in fed­eral court.

Fol­low­ing the Court’s deci­sion to strike down the civil rem­edy pro­vi­sion, ADL con­tin­ued its sup­port for leg­is­la­tion that coun­ters dis­crim­i­na­tion and bias crimes—including on the basis of gen­der or gen­der iden­tity. In 2009, Con­gress enacted the Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act crim­i­nal­iz­ing hate crimes tar­get­ing vic­tims because of race, color, reli­gion, national ori­gin, gen­der, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­tity or dis­abil­ity.  ADL spear­headed coali­tion efforts to pass the bill for more than a decade.

After fail­ing to reau­tho­rize an update to VAWA in 2012, Con­gress enacted new leg­is­la­tion in 2013, which included addi­tional pro­grams specif­i­cally designed to address domes­tic vio­lence against women of color, Native Amer­i­cans, new cam­pus hate crime require­ments, and inti­mate part­ner vio­lence involv­ing mem­bers of the LGBT community.

On this impor­tant anniver­sary, ADL reaf­firms its long-standing com­mit­ment to advo­cat­ing for legally-sound statutes at the fed­eral and state level that counter dis­crim­i­na­tion, bias crimes, and vio­lence against women.

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September 12, 2014 0

Anti-Immigrant Groups Attempt To Bring ISIS Into The Immigration Debate

anti-immigrant-islamIn response to the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted in the Mid­dle East by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a ter­ror­ist group, Amer­i­can anti-immigrant groups are attempt­ing to exploit the public’s legit­i­mate con­cerns about ISIS by warn­ing that the group plans to enter the United States via Mexico.

In a blog posted on Sep­tem­ber 8, a fel­low for the anti-immigrant think tank Cen­ter for Immi­gra­tion Stud­ies (CIS) argued that Sen­a­tor John McCain’s sup­port of the Senate’s immi­gra­tion reform bill S-744 in 2013, “has pro­vided ISIS with unfet­tered access to the United States for both its per­son­nel and their weapons of death and destruc­tion.” The blog con­cluded with the state­ment, “Should ISIS or some other ter­ror­ist group take advan­tage of McCain’s wel­come mat, he will only have him­self to blame as he goes in the eyes of many from war hero to collaborator.”

The anti-immigrant grass­roots orga­ni­za­tion Num­ber­sUSA and the California-based Cal­i­for­ni­ans for Pop­u­la­tion Sta­bi­liza­tion (CAPS) both sent fundrais­ing emails to activists in recent weeks link­ing ISIS to Pres­i­dent Obama’s rumored announce­ment of some form of exec­u­tive relief for undoc­u­mented immi­grants. Num­ber­sUSA claimed ISIS, “is cer­tainly encour­aged by the weak U.S. gov­ern­ment response to the bor­der surge this sum­mer…” A num­ber of state-based anti-immigrant groups also warned of the threat of ISIS ter­ror­ists enter­ing the U.S. via Mex­ico. Many of the groups cite a report from the conspiracy-orientated “watch­dog” group Judi­cial Watch. Judi­cial Watch is closely aligned with the anti-immigrant movement.

Some anti-immigrant groups are also respond­ing to the media spot­light on ISIS by espous­ing anti-Muslim rhetoric. In a Face­book post on Sep­tem­ber 9, the Tea Party Immi­gra­tion Coali­tion headed by racist Rick Olt­man asserted, “We must rethink the 1st amend­ment as it applies to Islam. Islam is NOT a reli­gion; rather, it is a supra­na­tional orga­ni­za­tion hell bent on world dom­i­na­tion and killing any­one, any­where and at any time to do so.”

The anti-immigrant move­ment often attempts to tie together the issues of immi­gra­tion and ter­ror­ism. This was the case even before the Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 ter­ror­ist attacks. Since 9–11, the move­ment has con­cen­trated on link­ing ter­ror­ism and immi­gra­tion under the guise of national secu­rity. This is a key argu­ment for the move­ment in oppo­si­tion to any form of immi­gra­tion reform.

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August 28, 2014 0

Town of Greece’s New Invocation Policy Excludes Religious Minorities

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent per­mis­sive leg­isla­tive prayer deci­sion (Greece v. Gal­loway) allows for sec­tar­ian invo­ca­tions at meet­ings of local leg­isla­tive bod­ies. Open­ing prayer prac­tices, how­ever, are not with­out limit. The deci­sion requires that a local leg­isla­tive body must imple­ment a non-discrimination pol­icy with respect to prayer givers.  The Town of Greece, New York —  a party to the Supreme Court case – recently adopted a new Town Board invo­ca­tion pol­icy.  This pol­icy cer­tainly vio­lates the spirit of the Greece decision’s non-discrimination man­date, but it is an open ques­tion whether it  actu­ally vio­lates it.supreme-court-civil-rights

The new pol­icy allows pri­vate cit­i­zens to sol­em­nize the pro­ceed­ings of the Town Board by offer­ing a “prayer, reflec­tive moment of silence, or a short sol­em­niz­ing mes­sage.”  How­ever, the per­son pro­vid­ing the sol­em­niz­ing mes­sage must be an appointed rep­re­sen­ta­tive of  “an assem­bly that reg­u­larly meet[s] for the pri­mary pur­pose of shar­ing a reli­gious per­spec­tive.”  The assem­bly must either be located within Greece, or it can be located out­side of town if a res­i­dent reg­u­larly attends the assem­bly and requests its inclu­sion on an offi­cial “Assem­blies List.”

The term “reli­gious per­spec­tive” cer­tainly encom­passes minor­ity faiths and non-believers.  Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeat­edly ruled that athe­ism and eth­i­cal human­ism are sin­cerely held reli­gious beliefs.  How­ever, while there may be Athe­ists, Bud­dhists, Eth­i­cal Human­ists, Jews, Mus­lims, Sikhs or other reli­gious minori­ties resid­ing in Greece, they may not have a con­gre­ga­tion within or prox­i­mate to town.  So the new pol­icy effec­tively deprives reli­gious minori­ties from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the invo­ca­tion oppor­tu­nity.   This is one rea­son why ADL views leg­isla­tive prayer prac­tices as divi­sive and poor pub­lic pol­icy.  If the Town of Greece truly wants to be inclu­sive and live up to the spirit of the Supreme Court’s non-discrimination require­ment, it should give all res­i­dents a true oppor­tu­nity to sol­em­nize Town Board proceedings.

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