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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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August 28, 2014 0

Moving Forward From Ferguson

“His­tory sim­mers beneath the sur­face in more com­mu­ni­ties than just Fer­gu­son,” Attor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder aptly rec­og­nized dur­ing his visit there. The con­ver­sa­tion about Fer­gu­son can­not start with the death of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man shot to death by a white police offi­cer.  Though tragic in and of itself, the story goes back much further.ferguson-civil-rights

It is a sad tru­ism that America’s laws—and the peo­ple charged with enforc­ing them—have not always pro­tected com­mu­ni­ties of color.  In the infa­mous Dred Scott case, which orig­i­nated just miles from Fer­gu­son, the Supreme Court shame­fully ruled in 1857 that African Amer­i­cans had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”  Though the case served as a cat­a­lyst for the Civil War and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amend­ments rat­i­fied shortly there­after to super­sede the rul­ing, deep-seated racism continued.

Jim Crow laws seg­re­gated soci­ety and rel­e­gated African Amer­i­cans to second-class cit­i­zens. Lynch­ings ter­ror­ized com­mu­ni­ties.  All too often not only did law enforce­ment fail to pro­tect African Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties, but police offi­cers par­tic­i­pated in the lynch mobs.  Dur­ing the Civil Rights Move­ment, now-infamous images cap­tured police offi­cers using dogs, fire hoses and billy clubs against peace­ful protestors.

Since the Civil Rights Move­ment half a cen­tury ago we have worked hard as a nation to move towards a more just and equal soci­ety. We have come a long way, but Fer­gu­son stands as a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go.

In address­ing the cri­sis in Fer­gu­son, the first step must be open and respect­ful dia­logue.  We can­not move for­ward unless and until we face the past.  Part of that dis­cus­sion must be about the role of law enforce­ment and their rela­tion­ship with the com­mu­ni­ties they have sworn to serve and protect.

Since 1999 the Anti-Defamation League, in part­ner­ship with the United States Holo­caust Museum, has con­ducted train­ings for law enforce­ment—from police chiefs and the head of fed­eral agen­cies to recruits and new FBI agents—exploring what hap­pens when police lose sight of the val­ues they swore to uphold and their role as pro­tec­tors of the  peo­ple they serve. By con­trast­ing the con­duct of police in Nazi Ger­many, and the role that law enforce­ment is expected to play in our democ­racy, the pro­gram under­scores the impor­tance of safe­guard­ing con­sti­tu­tional rights, build­ing trust with the peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties they serve, and the tragic con­se­quences when there is a gap between how law enforce­ment behaves and the core val­ues of the profession.

We know from our work that the vast major­ity of offi­cers care deeply about the com­mu­ni­ties they serve.  But that is not to say police are infal­li­ble.  None of us is.  And there are cer­tainly some within law enforce­ment who engage in mis­con­duct, as is the case in every pro­fes­sion.  But the bad acts of some can­not and do not define law enforcement.

Amer­ica is strongest and safest when there is mutual under­stand­ing and trust between law enforce­ment and com­mu­ni­ties.  We must seek to build those bridges by rec­og­niz­ing our trou­ble­some past, acknowl­edg­ing the prob­lems per­sist­ing today, and com­mit­ting to changes that move us for­ward to a more per­fect union.

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August 27, 2014 0

American Killed In Syria Tweeted ISIS Propaganda

duale-khalid-isis

McCain named him­self Duale Khalid on Twitter

The death of Amer­i­can cit­i­zen Dou­glas McAu­thur McCain while fight­ing with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) this week­end may fur­ther attest to the impact of ISIS’ sophis­ti­cated use of social media and online pro­pa­ganda.

ISIS, an Al Qaeda inspired ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion oper­at­ing in Iraq and Syria, encour­ages its sup­port­ers to share its mes­sages on social media. McCain appears to have responded.

Between May and August 2014, McCain reg­u­larly shared ISIS tweets and pro­pa­ganda mate­ri­als. For exam­ple, he retweeted the Eng­lish trans­la­tion of a speech by ISIS spokesman Abu Muham­mad al-Adnani. In June, he shared an image prais­ing mar­tyr­dom with the cap­tion “Shuhada [mar­tyr­dom] in Jan­nah [par­adise] with there (sic) souls in green birds. flying.”

He also tweeted state­ments indi­cat­ing pro-ISIS view­points includ­ing, “If your (sic) a Mus­lim and you vote, please let me know so I can unfol­low and block you” (indi­cated anti-democratic sentiment).

His own tweets may also indi­cate that he had begun think­ing about dying. On May 14, he wrote, “Ya Allah when it’s my time to go have mercy on my soul have mercy on my bros.” On June 9, he Tweeted to an  an alleged ISIS fighter: “I will be join­ing you guys soon.”  Later, he retweeted: “It takes a war­rior to under­stand a war­rior. Pray for ISIS.”

 

Before May, McCain had not been active on Twit­ter for about a year, and before that he did not reg­u­larly tweet about extrem­ist issues.  duale-khalid-twitter-isis-mcain

McCain’s Twit­ter account and Face­book pro­file (he had recently changed his name to “Duale Thaslave­o­fAl­lah” on Face­book) reflected a man with a diverse mix of non-extremist inter­ests. McCain’s “likes” on Face­book included the Chicago Bulls, Pizza Hut and the TV show Chappelle’s Show. He expressed con­sid­er­able inter­est in street fight­ing and ‘liked’ sev­eral pages pro­mot­ing it.

Some “likes” on Face­book also sug­gested some poten­tial inter­est in extrem­ism as well. For exam­ple, he liked the Face­book page belong­ing to Musa Ceran­to­nio, an extrem­ist Aus­tralian preacher who main­tained an active Twit­ter account that posted and trans­lated ISIS pro­pa­ganda mate­ri­als until his arrest in the Philip­pines in July 2014. He also liked a page called The Black Flag that ref­er­ences Islamist mil­i­tancy and reg­u­larly posted links to the Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion, an infa­mous anti-Semitic con­spir­acy theory.

Accord­ing to his Twit­ter account, McCain con­verted to Islam in 2004, well before he stopped post­ing about rap, sports and his friends and fam­ily on social media.

McCain is the sec­ond Amer­i­can iden­ti­fied as hav­ing been killed fight­ing with a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion in Syria in 2014. In May, Moner Abu Salha of Florida was iden­ti­fied in a Jab­hat al-Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria) video as hav­ing par­tic­i­pated in a sui­cide attack. In addi­tion, an appar­ent Amer­i­can using the pseu­do­nym Abu Dujana al-Amriki was por­trayed in a video posted online as hav­ing been killed fight­ing with ISIS in 2013.

Over 100 Amer­i­cans are believed to have trav­eled to Syria and Iraq to join the fight­ing, and increas­ing num­bers of those Amer­i­cans are choos­ing ISIS as their orga­ni­za­tion of choice.

McCain was born in 1981 in Illi­nois. He later moved to the Twin Cities and then to San Diego. He grad­u­ated high school and, accord­ing to his Face­book pro­file, stud­ied at San Diego City College.

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