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October 13, 2014 0

Supreme Court Inmate Beard Case Illustrates True Purpose Of Federal Free Exercise Laws

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard argu­ments in a case (Holt v. Hobbs) brought by an obser­vant Mus­lim inmate chal­leng­ing an Arkansas Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions (“DOC”) pol­icy bar­ring beards worn for reli­gious rea­sons.  ADL had joined a friend-of-the-court-brief filed by a coali­tion of reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions in sup­port of the inmate.   Given the facts of the case, the ques­tions and answers at oral argu­ment, and the Court’s overly broad read­ing of a fed­eral law sim­i­lar to the one at issue in this case, there likely are five jus­tices who will side with the inmate.holt-v-hobbs

Forty state prison sys­tems allow inmates to wear beards with­out lim­i­ta­tion, and another three allow beards with some lim­i­ta­tions.  But the DOC pro­hibits inmates from wear­ing half-inch beards for reli­gious reasons.

The inmate – Gre­gory Holt – chal­lenged the beard pol­icy under the Reli­gious Land Use and Insti­tu­tion­al­ized Per­sons Act (“RLUIPA”).   It is sis­ter leg­is­la­tion to the Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act (“RFRA”), the law at issue in the trou­bling Hobby Lobby deci­sion where the Court found that the Afford­able Care Act’s con­tra­cep­tion man­date “sub­stan­tially” bur­dened the reli­gious exer­cise of a for-profit cor­po­ra­tion.  Both statutes apply strict scrutiny – the most robust con­sti­tu­tional stan­dard – when neu­tral laws or gov­ern­ment rules sig­nif­i­cantly bur­den reli­gious exercise.

At the argu­ment, DOC’s attor­ney jus­ti­fied the beard pol­icy based on pris­oner misiden­ti­fi­ca­tion and hid­den con­tra­band con­cerns.  But he could not cite to an exam­ple of either.  The attor­ney also had dif­fi­culty explain­ing why the Court should give def­er­ence to the pol­icy when inmates are per­mit­ted to have quarter-inch beards for med­ical rea­sons, wear their hair to the mid­dle of the neck, and grow Afros with­out lim­i­ta­tion, all of which arguably could pose the same concerns.

This case reflects the true pur­pose of both RLUIPA and RFRA: to shield reli­gion from gov­ern­ment bur­dens — not detri­men­tally impos­ing reli­gious beliefs on oth­ers as was the case in Hobby Lobby.  Based on DOC’s fail­ure to show a mate­r­ial effect on prison secu­rity, the Court should find in favor of Mr. Holt.  Allow­ing him to wear a short beard upholds his reli­gious lib­erty with­out impos­ing his faith on or caus­ing harm to others.

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October 8, 2014 0

Moroccan Islamic Union-Mail Now Hacking For ISIS

The Moroc­can Islamic Union-Mail hacker group, which tar­geted Jew­ish web­sites in the United States in sup­port of Hamas dur­ing Oper­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge, has claimed credit for hack­ing into the Mass­a­chu­setts Mar­itime Academy’s web­site on Monday.moroccan-union -islamic-electronic-mail-google

Vis­i­tors to the acad­emy web­site were redi­rected to a site that fea­tured an image of an appar­ent ceme­tery for Amer­i­can sol­diers with a mes­sage that reads: “Iraq is the grave­yard of Amer­ica. Wel­come to the death that awaits you at the hand of the Muja­hedeen in Iraq.” The site also includes an audio clip of an Islamic Jihadist song that glo­ri­fied Islamic conquests.

In August, the Moroc­can Islamic Union-Mail’s Face­book page included state­ments threat­en­ing the U.S .with cyber-attacks in response to the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary oper­a­tions against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The state­ment read:

After focus­ing on Israeli tar­gets dur­ing the aggres­sion on Gaza, the Moroc­can Islamic Union-mail declares tar­get­ing impor­tant web­sites in Amer­ica in sup­port of the Iraqi peo­ple and in response to the Amer­i­can airstrikes.

The Face­book page, which has since been removed, fea­tured var­i­ous com­ments and images express­ing sol­i­dar­ity with ISIS and con­demn­ing mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion in Iraq.

The group uses var­i­ous online plat­forms to claim respon­si­bil­ity for its hacks and to pro­mote its views, includ­ing an Arabic-language blog, a YouTube chan­nel and var­i­ous Face­book pages that claim to be affiliated.

ADL first exposed the group’s hack­ing efforts in July after sev­eral Jew­ish insti­tu­tional web­sites were hacked by the group.

The group has also claimed respon­si­bil­ity for hack­ing the web­site of the Nepalese embassy in the U.S. Its claim of respon­si­bil­ity read: “The Moroc­can Islamic Union-mail hacks the embassy of Nepal in Amer­ica and pulls sev­eral data. We will attack the inter­ests of Amer­ica world­wide, with God’s will­ing, to respond to the Amer­i­can air strikes against the Iraqi people.”

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October 8, 2014 0

Chicago Arrest Provides Example Of An American’s Detailed Plan To Join ISIS

The arrest of a Chicago man for allegedly attempt­ing to join Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) demon­strates the extent to which Amer­i­cans attempt­ing to join ter­ror groups abroad are able to com­mu­ni­cate with for­eign con­tacts and for­mu­late their travel plans.mohammed-khan-isis

Mohamed Hamzah Khan, 19, was arrested Sun­day at Chicago O’Hare Inter­na­tional Air­port as he attempted to board a flight to Turkey.

While many of the Amer­i­cans arrested for attempt­ing to join ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions in the past two years – includ­ing fel­low Chicagoan Abdella Tounisi – have not nec­es­sar­ily had a well-formulated plan, Khan’s case rep­re­sents an exam­ple of an indi­vid­ual whose efforts seem to have been informed, if not directed, by mem­bers of the ter­ror­ist group itself.

In a note­book found in his home, Khan allegedly had drawn maps of the Syria-Turkish bor­der, with arrows show­ing pos­si­ble cross­ings. He also allegedly listed steps to take, includ­ing an itin­er­ary for a trip by bus in Turkey that would get him to that bor­der. His knowl­edge of what to do in order to join ISIS likely came from online sources. Accord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint, he had received phone num­bers for con­tact peo­ple in Syria from an indi­vid­ual he was allegedly in touch with online. Khan had report­edly bought a round-trip ticket to Turkey, pos­si­bly to avert suspicion.

The search of Khan’s home also allegedly uncov­ered an ide­o­log­i­cal affin­ity for ISIS. Police report­edly found a farewell note in which Khan had writ­ten, “We are all wit­ness that the west­ern soci­eties are get­ting more immoral day by day. I do not want my kids being exposed to filth like this,” and urg­ing his par­ents to join him in Syria. Accord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint filed in his case, author­i­ties also found a note­book in his home with a draw­ing of a fighter with an ISIS flag and the words “Come to Jihad” writ­ten in Arabic.

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