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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

Gun Range Owner’s Offensive Ban on Muslim Patrons is Unlawful

jan-morgan-gun

Jan Mor­gan

Cit­ing to pub­lic safety con­cerns stem­ming from the 9/11 attacks and a recent Okla­homa work­place behead­ing, Arkansas gun range owner Jan Mor­gan last week pub­licly declared her busi­ness a “Muslim-Free zone.”  Although this odi­ous and unlaw­ful dec­la­ra­tion has been removed from her Face­book page, a mes­sage on Morgan’s Twit­ter account states that the rule still stands.

In a dia­tribe jus­ti­fy­ing her deci­sion,  Mor­gan wrongly claims that Islam is not a reli­gion.   And there­fore, she erro­neously con­cludes that Mus­lims are not enti­tled to First Amend­ment guar­an­tees of reli­gious free­dom.  Mor­gan also falsely asserts that she has the option to bar Mus­lim patrons from her gun range.  But this ban bla­tantly vio­lates the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993, which  pro­hibits  “… any estab­lish­ment, either licensed of unli­censed, that sup­plies … ser­vices to gen­eral pub­lic … “ from dis­crim­i­nat­ing against a per­son “… because of … religion.”

Later admit­ting that the anti-Muslim ban dis­re­gards the law,  Mor­gan nonethe­less declared  that she “will do what­ever is nec­es­sary to pro­vide a safe envi­ron­ment for my cus­tomers, even at the cost of the increased threats and legal prob­lems this deci­sion will likely pro­voke.”  Although she relies on the Sec­ond Amend­ment to remain in busi­ness, Mor­gan wants to ignore fed­eral and state Equal Pro­tec­tion Clause prin­ci­ples cod­i­fied in anti-discrimination laws.  Pick­ing and choose among legal pro­tec­tions is sim­ply not an option in our nation of laws, and Mor­gan would be wise to revoke her offen­sive ban against Mus­lim patrons.

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