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March 7, 2014 0

ADL-Led Coalition Defends The Hate Crimes Prevention Act

The Anti-Defamation League has filed an ami­cus brief in a case pend­ing before the Sixth U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals on behalf of a broad coali­tion of civil rights, reli­gious, edu­ca­tional, and law enforce­ment orga­ni­za­tions in sup­port of the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the Mathew Shep­ard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act (HCPA).  This is the first coali­tion brief defend­ing the Act, and it attracted some of the most promi­nent and impor­tant civil rights, reli­gious, law enforce­ment, LGBT, edu­ca­tional, and pro­fes­sional orga­ni­za­tions in the country. HCPA-brief

The cases involve Samuel Mul­let Sr., the self-appointed Bishop of an Old Order Amish sect in cen­tral east­ern Ohio, who ordered more than a dozen of his fol­low­ers to engage in vio­lent beard-and hair-cutting attacks against church mem­bers who had rebelled against his dom­i­neer­ing control. 

The vic­tims of these religiously-motivated crimes were being pun­ished: they had not obeyed Mullet’s edicts and “strayed from the true path.”  Mar­ried men in this Amish com­mu­nity typ­i­cally grow long beards and the women grow their hair long and keep it cov­ered under a prayer bon­net.  Beards and hair are sacred sym­bols of their reli­gious identity. 

The assailants invaded the vic­tims’ homes or lured them into the open before attack­ing them. They forcibly cut their hair and beards using a vari­ety of imple­ments, includ­ing horse shears and elec­tric beard trim­mers. The attack­ers took pic­tures of their assaults to com­pound and memo­ri­al­ize the vic­tims’ shame, and then buried the camera. 

The attacks inspired fear through­out the Amish com­mu­ni­ties in the region. In Sep­tem­ber 2012, Mul­let and his fol­low­ers were tried and con­victed of fed­eral con­spir­acy, kid­nap­ping, and vio­lat­ing the HCPA. U.S. Dis­trict Judge Dan Aaron Pol­ster elo­quently described the defen­dants’ actions dur­ing sen­tenc­ing: “you did more than just ter­ror­ize, trau­ma­tize, dis­fig­ure your vic­tims, you tram­pled on the Con­sti­tu­tion, and par­tic­u­larly the First Amend­ment which guar­an­tees each and every Amer­i­can reli­gious freedom.”

The defen­dants, Mul­let and his fol­low­ers, are now appeal­ing the case, chal­leng­ing their con­vic­tions and sen­tences on the grounds that the HCPA is uncon­sti­tu­tional, a vio­la­tion of the First Amend­ment, and that the HCPA can­not apply to a case in which the per­pe­tra­tors and vic­tims are of the same religion.

The ADL coali­tion brief coun­ters each of these arguments. 

First, the brief argues the fact that the per­pe­tra­tors iden­tify as the same reli­gion as the vic­tims does not shield them from cul­pa­bil­ity under the HCPA: “To exempt intra-faith crimes from the HCPA would ignore many acts of bias-motivated vio­lence that that dev­as­tat­ing effects on communities.” 

Sec­ond, the brief clearly demon­strates that the HCPA does not infringe on the defen­dants’  reli­gious free­dom rights:  “Appel­lants are, and always have been, free to speak their minds and free to wor­ship in any way they wish.  They sim­ply are not free to tar­get vic­tims for vio­lent crimes because of religion.” 

The list of orga­ni­za­tions join­ing ADL and the Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence on Civil and Human Rights on this brief includes American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Com­mit­tee, Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Peo­ple with Dis­abil­i­ties, Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Uni­ver­sity Women, Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers, Amer­i­can Jew­ish Com­mit­tee, Asian Amer­i­cans Advanc­ing Jus­tice, Bend the Arc: A Jew­ish Part­ner­ship for Jus­tice, B’nai B’rith Inter­na­tional, GLSEN, Cen­tral Con­fer­ence of Amer­i­can Rab­bis, Hindu Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion, Human Rights Cam­paign, Human Rights First, Inter­faith Alliance Foun­da­tion, Japan­ese Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens League, Jew­ish Coun­cil for Pub­lic Affairs, Jew­ish Women Inter­na­tional, Mus­lim Advo­cates, National Asso­ci­a­tion for the Advance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple, National Cen­ter for Trans­gen­der Equal­ity, National Coun­cil of Jew­ish Women, National Dis­abil­ity Rights Net­work, National Orga­ni­za­tion of Black Law Enforce­ment Exec­u­tives, National Orga­ni­za­tion for Women Foun­da­tion, National Urban League, OCA – Asian Pacific Amer­i­can Advo­cates, Peo­ple For the Amer­i­can Way Foun­da­tion, PFLAG National, Police Exec­u­tive Research Forum, Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund, Sikh Coali­tion, Soci­ety for Human­is­tic Judaism, South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Together, South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter, Union of Reform Judaism, UNITED SIKHS, Women of Reform Judaism, and Women’s League for Con­ser­v­a­tive Judaism.

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March 4, 2014 0

Abuse Of Yik Yak App Underscores Need For Personal Accountability

Update: March 10, 2014 – Threats found on Yik Yak resulted in back-to-back evac­u­a­tions of a high school in Mar­ble­head, Mass­a­chu­setts, as well as the lock­down of a Decatur, Alabama, Mid­dle School and a San Clemente, Cal­i­for­nia High School, accord­ing to the Los Ange­les Times. Some of the schools that have been sub­ject to threats on Yik Yak have report­edly blocked stu­dents from access­ing the app directly through cam­pus Inter­net net­works. At least four Chicago-area high schools warned par­ents about Yik Yak in the past two weeks, accord­ing to the Chicago Tri­bune, and prin­ci­pals have asked par­ents to delete the app from their children’s devices.

The abuse of a con­tro­ver­sial new app that enables users to com­mu­ni­cate with com­plete anonymity high­lights the need for some user iden­ti­fi­ca­tion func­tions and per­sonal accountability.yikyak

The app, Yik Yak, which pro­motes itself as being a place “to post anony­mously or under an alias — you can become the talk of the town and never get dis­cov­ered,”  has been report­edly abused by stu­dents in Roswell, Geor­gia; North Kansas City, Mis­souri; and Mobile, Alabama.

In Roswell, a let­ter was sent to par­ents of High School stu­dents say­ing that “this app is allow­ing stu­dents to ver­bally abuse each other, teach­ers and staff…”

In North Kansas City, one par­ent found a hate­ful post about her daugh­ter as well as teach­ers and administrators.

And in Mobile, two stu­dents under the age of 16 were report­edly arrested for using the app to make ter­ror­is­tic threats. Appar­ently act­ing sep­a­rately, each allegedly used Yik Yak to threat­ened shoot­ings at local high schools. They were arrested on felony charges.

These inci­dents empha­size the con­se­quences of a lack of any reg­is­tra­tion require­ments, includ­ing age ver­i­fi­ca­tion, or a cur­sory online identification.

In his lat­est book Viral Hate, ADL National Direc­tor Abra­ham H. Fox­man speaks to this issue, not­ing that “embold­ened by anonymity,” indi­vid­u­als are “freely spew­ing hate­ful vit­riol on the Inter­net with­out wor­ry­ing about reper­cus­sions. Lies, bul­ly­ing, con­spir­acy the­o­ries, big­oted and racist rants, and calls for vio­lence tar­get­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble cir­cu­late openly on the web.”

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March 3, 2014 0

The Arizona Effect

Josh Deinert

AP Photo/Matt York

Last week Ari­zona Gov­er­nor Jan Brewer vetoed the State’s now infa­mous “reli­gious free­dom” bill. 

The clear intent of the SB 1062 was to effec­tively allow per­sons and busi­nesses to dis­crim­i­nate against the State’s LGBT com­mu­nity by pro­vid­ing a pow­er­ful legal defense based on asser­tion of a “sin­cerely held reli­gious belief.” 

Due to its expan­sive nature, how­ever, the leg­is­la­tion would have broadly sanc­tioned religious-based dis­crim­i­na­tion whether the vic­tim was Jew­ish, Mus­lim, Protes­tant, Catholic, Mor­mon, Hindu or of no faith.   And the Anti-Defamation took a lead­er­ship role in defeat­ing this dis­crim­i­na­tory legislation.

Gov­er­nor Brewer ulti­mately vetoed SB 1062 under fierce pres­sure from the State’s civil rights and busi­ness communities.

But what hap­pens in Ari­zona does not stay in Ari­zona.  Prior to Gov­er­nor Brewer’s veto, at least twelve other states, includ­ing Geor­gia, Mis­sis­sippi, Ohio and Okla­homa, were actively con­sid­er­ing sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion.  Due to the back­lash against SB 1062, how­ever, Geor­gia, Mis­sis­sippi, Ohio, and Okla­homa tabled their bills.  So the new talk­ing point in oppos­ing such leg­is­la­tion should be “fol­low the lead of the Ari­zona leg­is­la­ture at your peril.”

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