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June 7, 2016 5

Governor Urges Iowans to Attend Bible Marathons

Iowa Gov­er­nor, Terry E. Bran­stand, recently issued a reli­giously divi­sive and likely uncon­sti­tu­tional procla­ma­tion urg­ing all Iowans to attend state-wide Bible read­ing marathons orga­nized by Christian-based groups.

Iowa gov proclamationDeclar­ing “the Bible … as the one true rev­e­la­tion from God, show­ing the way of Sal­va­tion, Truth, and Life …,” the procla­ma­tion states that the Governor:

… encourage[s] all Iowans to join in this his­tor­i­cal 99 County Bible Read­ing Marathon to take place June 30th through July 3rd, 2016 in front of all 99 cour­t­houses and fur­ther­more, encour­ages indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies in Iowa to read through the Bible on a daily basis each year until the Lord comes.

Read­ing the Bible gives many Amer­i­cans guid­ance, strength and com­fort.  And it is com­pletely appro­pri­ate for clergy and other reli­gious lead­ers to call on con­gre­gants to read the Bible.  The Gov­er­nor, how­ever, should not be pro­mot­ing such activities.

This procla­ma­tion divides Iowans along reli­gious lines within and out­side the Chris­t­ian faith.  As a start­ing point, there are numer­ous ver­sions of the Chris­t­ian Bible.  So which ver­sion is the right one for Iowans read?  Undoubt­edly, the procla­ma­tion also sends a mes­sage of exclu­sion and mar­gin­al­iza­tion to Iowans who are not Chris­t­ian or are of no faith.

The Governor’s action is a good illus­tra­tion for why the First Amend­ment pro­hibits gov­ern­ment from pre­fer­ring one faith or reli­gion more gen­er­ally.   Offi­cial reli­gious par­tial­ity erodes non-adherents’ trust in gov­ern­ment treat­ing them fairly and in the most extreme cases can coerce adop­tion of a par­tic­u­lar faith based on the belief that it will result in favor­able treatment.

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June 7, 2016 5

Attacks Against Police Are Not Hate Crimes

The Anti-Defamation League and many other groups have deep con­cerns about a new Louisiana statute – the so-called “Blue Lives Mat­ter” law – that inserts police and fire­fight­ers into the state’s hate crime law.    ADL is proud of the spe­cial con­nec­tions and joint ini­tia­tives we have with the law enforce­ment com­mu­nity.  As the non-governmental agency that works most closely with and trains more state and local police and fed­eral law enforce­ment offi­cials than any­one else, we strongly sup­port laws that deter attacks against police.  In Louisiana – and nearly every other state – an assault against a police offi­cer is already a seri­ous crime, car­ry­ing a more severe penalty than an assault against a civil­ian.  There­fore, Louisiana’s new “Blue Lives Mat­ter” law is unnec­es­sary, and could even make it more dif­fi­cult to pros­e­cute attacks against police.

Police groupHate crimes tar­get indi­vid­u­als or insti­tu­tions because of race, reli­gion, national ori­gin, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der, dis­abil­ity, or gen­der iden­tity, focus on per­sonal char­ac­ter­is­tics.  They are designed to intim­i­date the vic­tim and mem­bers of the victim’s com­mu­nity, leav­ing them feel­ing fear­ful, iso­lated, vul­ner­a­ble, and unpro­tected by the law.   These inci­dents can dam­age the fab­ric of our soci­ety and frag­ment communities.

Crimes against police also, obvi­ously, have a seri­ous and deeply harm­ful com­mu­nity impact.   But adding police – or any other cat­e­gory based on voca­tion or employ­ment – con­fuses the pur­pose of hate crime laws, and threat­ens to make crimes against police more dif­fi­cult to prove.  If police are included in hate crime laws, pros­e­cu­tors would face the addi­tional require­ment of hav­ing to prove both that the per­pe­tra­tor attacked the offi­cer – and that the act was com­mit­ted because he/she was a police offi­cer.  That addi­tional intent require­ment, which is not included in exist­ing laws cov­er­ing attacks on police offi­cers, would make pros­e­cu­tions more dif­fi­cult, not easier.

While there is wide­spread doc­u­men­ta­tion that hate crimes based on per­sonal char­ac­ter­is­tics are down­played and under­re­ported, there is no evi­dence that pros­e­cu­tors any­where in the coun­try are fail­ing to vig­or­ously inves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute crimes against police.  To fur­ther high­light their seri­ous treat­ment, the FBI spe­cially tracks and pre­pares an annual report on these crimes,

Louisiana should recon­sider, and its statute should not be repli­cated by other states.

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May 23, 2016 8

Defense Authorization Act Moves Forward With Discriminatory Provision

Congress standing

Last week, the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives passed the National Defense Autho­riza­tion Act for 2017 (“NDAA”), inclu­sive of a broad, dis­crim­i­na­tory pro­vi­sion spon­sored by Rep. Steve Rus­sell (R-OK). This pro­vi­sion, offered in the name of “reli­gious free­dom,” would allow reli­giously affil­i­ated fed­eral con­trac­tors and grantees to dis­crim­i­nate against women, any reli­gious group, and LGBT peo­ple with tax­payer dollars.

Dur­ing House’s debate on the NDAA, Rep. Sean Mal­oney (D-NY) offered a nar­row­ing amend­ment which would have pro­tected the Obama Administration’s ban on LGBT dis­crim­i­na­tion in fed­eral con­tract­ing. That amend­ment failed on chaotic 212–213 vote dur­ing which Repub­li­can lead­ers took the extra­or­di­nary step of allow­ing vot­ing to con­tinue after time had expired and pres­sured a hand­ful of their Mem­bers to change their votes.

The Anti-Defamation League was one of 84 civil rights and reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions that sub­mit­ted a coali­tion let­ter to Con­gress in oppo­si­tion to the Rus­sell Amendment.

Reli­giously affil­i­ated groups his­tor­i­cally have played an impor­tant role in address­ing many of our nation’s most press­ing social needs, as a com­ple­ment to government-funded pro­grams.   How­ever, faith-based groups should not use tax­payer dol­lars to dis­crim­i­nate on the basis of reli­gion.  And no one should be dis­qual­i­fied from a job under a fed­eral con­tract or grant because of his or her sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der, gen­der iden­tity, or religion.

The Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee has approved its ver­sion of the NDAA with­out the Rus­sell Amend­ment.  Mov­ing for­ward, ADL and our coali­tion part­ners will con­tinue to oppose the Rus­sell Amend­ment and advo­cate for its exclu­sion from the final ver­sion of the NDAA.

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