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October 22, 2014 0

Pro-Hezbollah Hackers Target Media Group For Its Position On Israel

On Octo­ber 20, pro-Hezbollah hack­ers took con­trol of the Twit­ter account of a promi­nent Lebanese Chris­t­ian TV sta­tion, Murr Tele­vi­sion, known as MTV Lebanon, because the sta­tion allegedly failed to describe Hamas com­bat­ants killed in the fight­ing with Israel as “martyrs.”mtv-lebanon-hacking-hezbollah

The hack­ers changed the Twit­ter account’s cover image to a photo of a Hezbol­lah fighter under a Hezbol­lah flag and tweeted a mes­sage from the account stating:

“[Only] when you learn the dif­fer­ence between a mar­tyr and a killed [per­son], between an agent [of Israel] and a resis­tance fighter…. [Only] When you learn that Israel is the enemy, then your account will return to you. So we don’t for­get Palestine.@MTVLebanonNews.”

While no group has claimed respon­si­bil­ity for the hack­ing, Hezbol­lah’s media arm,Al Manar, praised the attack in a report pub­lished yes­ter­day that read in part, “For sev­eral hours today, the flag of Hezbol­lah kept wav­ing over the pub­lic page of MTV twit­ter account.”

The hack­ing of MTV Lebanon and sub­se­quent prais­ing of it by Hezbollah’s media arm could rep­re­sent a new tac­tic in the way ter­ror­ist groups in the Mid­dle East attack their oppo­nents online and spread their ide­ol­ogy to a wider audi­ence. It does not appear that Hezbol­lah has pre­vi­ously endorsed cyber-attacks against its opponents.

ADL has tracked sev­eral hack­ing oper­a­tions against Jew­ish and Israeli insti­tu­tions by anti-Israel groups.

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October 20, 2014 1

NC School District Continues Legally Questionable Bible Course

News reports about a ques­tion­able ele­men­tary school Bible course recently brought national atten­tion on the Rowan-Salisbury, NC pub­lic school sys­tem. Accord­ing to these reports, the classes are funded by reli­gious non­profit groups and include explicit reli­gious indoc­tri­na­tion. If true, these prac­tices raise seri­ous con­sti­tu­tional issues. nc-school-religion

Shortly after the Bible course made the news, the Rowan-Salisbury School Board held a meet­ing to con­sider whether the classes should con­tinue. Although the Board voted to review the course cur­ricu­lum, it appears that the classes will con­tinue pend­ing the review. In sup­port of con­tin­u­ing the Bible classes, Chair­man of the Rowan County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers Jim Sides report­edly stated: “I am sick and tired of being told by the minor­ity what’s best for the majority.”

Our nation’s pub­lic schools cer­tainly are not devoid of reli­gion. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that pub­lic schools can teach about reli­gion in an objec­tive and neu­tral man­ner, but they can­not teach or indoc­tri­nate reli­gion. For school offi­cials, mak­ing that dis­tinc­tion — par­tic­u­larly for a Bible course — is no easy task. Indeed, a let­ter ADL sent to the Rowan-Salisbury School Board in advance of its recent meet­ing noted that all reported legal deci­sions on Bible courses in pub­lic schools found con­sti­tu­tional violations.

ADL firmly believes that com­par­a­tive reli­gion classes are more appro­pri­ate for pub­lic schools. By its vote, the Rowan-Salisbury School Board appar­ently does not agree. But the Board needs to take a num­ber of impor­tant steps to ensure that its Bible course is con­sti­tu­tional and reli­giously inclu­sive. First and fore­most, it has to abide by the Supreme Court’s direc­tive, which requires a num­ber of prac­ti­cal steps.

For starters, the classes should be lim­ited to sec­ondary schools. When it comes to reli­gion in the pub­lic schools, the Courts are most pro­tec­tive of ele­men­tary school stu­dents because they are most impres­sion­able and vul­ner­a­ble to reli­gious coer­cion. Try­ing to craft a con­sti­tu­tion­ally per­mis­si­ble ele­men­tary school cur­ricu­lum is sim­ply unwork­able, and will undoubt­edly lead to more con­tro­versy and litigation.

The cur­ricu­lum also should be reviewed by a pro­fes­sor of reli­gious stud­ies or another expert, and Bible course teach­ers should receive train­ing on Estab­lish­ment Clause and reli­gious diver­sity issues.

Chair­man Sides and the school board should keep in mind that our nation’s pub­lic schools serve all of our chil­dren, whether they are in the reli­gious major­ity or minor­ity. If a school makes the deci­sion to teach a Bible course, the cur­ricu­lum should be bal­anced and plu­ral­is­tic in nature. It can­not advo­cate one par­tic­u­lar reli­gion, or one bib­li­cal inter­pre­ta­tion or trans­la­tion over another.

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October 15, 2014 0

The Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act: Five Years Later

The Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act (HCPA), enacted into law on Octo­ber 28, 2009, is the most impor­tant, com­pre­hen­sive, and inclu­sive fed­eral hate crime enforce­ment law passed in the past 40 years.Matthew_Shepard_and_James_Byrd,_Jr._Hate_Crimes_Prevention_Act

The HCPA encour­ages part­ner­ships between state and fed­eral law enforce­ment offi­cials to more effec­tively address hate vio­lence, and pro­vides expanded author­ity for fed­eral hate crime inves­ti­ga­tions and pros­e­cu­tions when local author­i­ties are unwill­ing or unable to act.  Impor­tantly, the HCPA adds sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der, gen­der iden­tity and dis­abil­ity to the groups which pre­vi­ously had fed­eral pro­tec­tion against hate crimes – race, color, reli­gion and national origin.

For more than a dozen years, the Anti-Defamation League led a broad coali­tion of civil rights, reli­gious, edu­ca­tional, pro­fes­sional, law enforce­ment, and civic orga­ni­za­tions advo­cat­ing for the HCPA. The leg­is­la­tion was stalled by fierce oppo­si­tion from some con­ser­v­a­tive orga­ni­za­tions — and, for eight years, by Pres­i­dent George W. Bush — in large part because it pro­vided new author­ity for the FBI and the Jus­tice Depart­ment to inves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute cases in which mem­bers of LGBT com­mu­ni­ties were tar­geted for vio­lence.  Ener­getic sup­port by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Attor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder, Jr.  was essen­tial to achiev­ing final pas­sage of the measure.

The HCPA has proven to be a valu­able tool for fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors.  The Depart­ment of Jus­tice has brought more than two dozen cases over the past five years – and has suc­cess­fully defended the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the Act against sev­eral con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenges.

Enact­ment of the HCPA also sparked a wel­come round of police train­ing and out­reach – and the devel­op­ment of a num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant new hate crime train­ing and pre­ven­tion resources, includ­ing an updated Hate Crime Model Pol­icy pre­pared by the Inter­na­tional Asso­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Police.

Yet, much work remains to be done.  Hate crimes remain a seri­ous national prob­lem. In 2012 (accord­ing to the most recent data avail­able) the FBI doc­u­mented more than 6,500 hate crimes – almost one every hour of every day. The most fre­quent were moti­vated by race, fol­lowed by reli­gion and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.  Of the crime moti­vated by reli­gion, more than 60 per­cent tar­geted Jews or Jew­ish institutions.

Unfor­tu­nately, more than 90 cities with pop­u­la­tions over 100,000 either did not par­tic­i­pate in the FBI 2012 data col­lec­tion pro­gram or affir­ma­tively reported zero (0) hate crimes. That is unac­cept­able. As FBI Direc­tor James B. Comey said in remarks to the 2014 ADL Lead­er­ship Sum­mit, “We must con­tinue to impress upon our state and local coun­ter­parts in every juris­dic­tion the need to track and report hate crime. It is not some­thing we can ignore or sweep under the rug.”

The fifth anniver­sary of the HCPA pro­vides an impor­tant teach­able moment.  It is a fit­ting occa­sion for advo­cates, the Obama Admin­is­tra­tion, and Con­gress to pro­mote aware­ness of the HCPA, to report on the progress our nation has made in pre­vent­ing hate vio­lence, and to reded­i­cate our­selves to effec­tively respond­ing to bias crimes when they occur.

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