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March 17, 2016 2

Tennessee Legislation Supports Church-State Separation in Public Schools

Tennessee’s state leg­is­la­ture is not known for mov­ing for­ward leg­is­la­tion strength­en­ing the wall sep­a­rat­ing church and state.  But ear­lier this week that is pre­cisely what it did by pass­ing a bill that man­dates con­sti­tu­tional safe­guards in teach­ing about reli­gion in pub­lic schools.

In recent years, the state leg­is­la­ture has enacted mul­ti­ple bills that pro­mote major­ity reli­gious views and under­mine the sep­a­ra­tion prin­ci­ple: a bill des­ig­nat­ing the Holy Bible as the offi­cial state book; back­door school prayer leg­is­la­tion; a mea­sure requir­ing post-secondary schools to sup­port stu­dent clubs that exclude mem­bers based on reli­gion; and a so-called “Aca­d­e­mic Free­dom Act,” which opens the door to teach­ing intel­li­gent design – a form of cre­ation­ism – in the pub­lic schools.

Flag_of_the_General_Assembly_of_Tennessee.svg

Based on this his­tory, the pas­sage of House Bill 1905, “An act rel­a­tive to … the inclu­sion of reli­gion in instruc­tion and cur­ricu­lum,” at first glance seems incon­sis­tent and sur­pris­ing.  The impe­tus for the bill, how­ever, mit­i­gates that incon­sis­tency.  It was filed in response to claims that a mid­dle school social stud­ies cur­ricu­lum crossed the con­sti­tu­tional line between teach­ing about and indoc­tri­nat­ing Islam.  No sim­i­lar claims were made about the course’s cov­er­age of other faiths includ­ing, Chris­tian­ity, Bud­dhism, Judaism, Con­fu­cian­ism, Dao­ism, and African religions.

Despite the ques­tion­able moti­va­tion behind the bill, on paper it is ben­e­fi­cial.  It cod­i­fies long­stand­ing con­sti­tu­tional stan­dards  by stat­ing that “[t]he inclu­sion of reli­gion in text­books, instruc­tional mate­ri­als, cur­ricu­lum, or aca­d­e­mic stan­dards shall be for edu­ca­tional pur­poses only and shall not be used to pro­mote or estab­lish any reli­gion or reli­gious belief.”  Most sig­nif­i­cantly, it requires “[t]eacher train­ing insti­tu­tions” to pro­vide can­di­dates with instruc­tion and strate­gies on how to teach about reli­gion in a con­sti­tu­tion­ally per­mis­si­ble manner.

Our nation’s pub­lic schools are for all chil­dren regard­less of their faith.  In the­ory, HB 1905’s safe­guards should make Ten­nessee pub­lic schools more wel­com­ing and inclu­sive.  How­ever, in light of the state legislature’s his­tory and the rea­sons behind this bill, ADL has con­cerns that its pro­tec­tions will only be applied in teach­ing about minor­ity faiths.

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December 18, 2015 Off

ADL Reports at Least 75 Anti-Muslim Incidents In US Since Paris Attacks

Fol­low­ing the shoot­ing in San Bernardino that left 14 peo­ple dead and 22 injured, there has been a con­tin­ued esca­la­tion in hos­til­ity and attacks through­out the U.S. against the Mus­lim com­mu­nity and those per­ceived as Muslim.

Islamic Center of Alameda's boarded up window, after it was shattered by a brick

Islamic Cen­ter of Alameda’s boarded up win­dow, after it was shat­tered by a brick (CBS)

Since the San Bernardino shoot­ing on Decem­ber 2, at least 27 anti-Muslim inci­dents have been reported in the U.S., rais­ing the total num­ber of inci­dents since the Novem­ber 13 Paris attacks to at least 75.Between the Paris attacks and the San Bernardino shoot­ing, ADL tracked approx­i­mately 48 anti-Muslim inci­dents. These num­bers are based on reports ADL has col­lected from media and other sources.

Inci­dents such as assaults, van­dal­ism, and threats tar­get­ing Mus­lim indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions in the U.S. tend to notice­ably spike in the after­math of ter­ror­ist attacks linked to Islamic extrem­ists in the U.S or abroad.

Below are selected exam­ples of alleged anti-Muslim inci­dents in the weeks fol­low­ing the San Bernardino attacks, both crim­i­nal and non-criminal:

Assaults

  • Grand Rapids, Michi­gan: Aman hold­ing up a con­ve­nience store report­edly called the Sikh man­ager a “ter­ror­ist” and sug­gested he was a mem­ber of ISIS before shoot­ing him in the face. (Decem­ber 12)
  • Queens, New York: A man beat a Mus­lim store owner in the Asto­ria neigh­bor­hood of Queens. The attacker report­edly stated, “I kill Mus­lims.” (Decem­ber 5)

Van­dal­ism

  • Hawthorne, Cal­i­for­nia: “Jesus” graf­fiti and a fake hand grenade were left at two mosques. (Decem­ber 12)
  • Alameda, Cal­i­for­nia: A brick was thrown through a mosque’s win­dow, shat­ter­ing the win­dow. (Decem­ber 10)
  • Palm Beach, Florida: The Islamic Cen­ter of Palm Beach was van­dal­ized, its win­dows smashed and fur­ni­ture over­turned. (Decem­ber 3)

Threats and Intimidation

  • Cull­man, Alabama: KKK fliers try to recruit Alaba­mans to stop “the spread of Islam.” (Decem­ber 10)
  • Philadel­phia, Penn­syl­va­nia: A sev­ered pig’s head was thrown at a mosque’s door. (Decem­ber 7)
  • Van­dalia, Ohio: A 7th grader threat­ened to shoot and kill a 6th grade Mus­lim school­mate, report­edly call­ing him a “ter­ror­ist,” a “towel head,” and a “son of ISIS.” (Decem­ber 7)
  • St. Louis, Mis­souri: A threat­en­ing voice­mail was left at the Islamic Cen­ter of St. Louis. The mes­sage report­edly stated “I was a Marine, I killed a lot of Mus­lims, watched a lot of you die and burn…You want to kill? Come my way. I will cut your f-cking head off.” (Decem­ber 5)
  • Fred­er­icks­burg, Vir­ginia: In advance of a pub­lic hear­ing about a new mosque, anti-Muslim fliers were posted around town that read “No Jihad in Fred­er­icks­burg.” (Decem­ber 5)

 

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April 27, 2015 12

Members of Congress Invite Anti-Muslim Bigot Geert Wilders to DC Events

Geert Wilders, the Dutch Free­dom Party leader and one of the most noto­ri­ous anti-Muslim big­ots in the world, announced that this week two Mem­bers of Con­gress will host him at events in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Steve King and Louie Gohmert are report­edly help­ing pro­vide a plat­form for Wilders at two events, a break­fast spon­sored by the Con­ser­v­a­tive Oppor­tu­nity Soci­ety, founded by for­mer Speaker of the House Newt Gin­grich, and later in the day at a reception.

ADL wrote to Rep­re­sen­ta­tives King and Gohmert to make sure they know that Wilders’ rhetoric, com­par­ing the Mus­lim reli­gion itself to Nazism, crosses the bound­aries of civil­ity and reli­gious tolerance.

Wilders rou­tinely says “Islam is evil” and calls for the clos­ing down of Mus­lim schools and mosques, as he did in Novem­ber 2014 at the most recent David Horowitz Free­dom Cen­ter Restora­tion Week­end in Florida. Wilders con­sid­ers every Mus­lim an extrem­ist, stat­ing that “accord­ing to the Qur’an, there are no mod­er­ate Mus­lims.” He fur­ther claims that the fact most Mus­lims are law-abiding cit­i­zens and have no con­nec­tion to ter­ror­ism is irrel­e­vant, because Islam is an expan­sion­ist and aggres­sive ide­ol­ogy.  His pro­file as a pur­veyor of ugly anti-Muslim big­otry went global in March 2008, when Wilders released an online film called Fitna. The film sim­plis­ti­cally depicts Islam as a vio­lent reli­gion, inter­spers­ing verses from the Qur’an with footage of ter­ror­ist violence.

Even a rad­i­cally anti-Muslim law­maker like Wilders is enti­tled to express his opin­ions.  But Amer­i­cans are enti­tled to expect their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives to avoid pro­mot­ing and legit­imiz­ing those odi­ous ideas.

Another instance of such deroga­tory and hate­ful rhetoric by Mem­bers of their cau­cus about immi­grants drew swift con­dem­na­tion by House Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) and then Major­ity Leader Eric Can­tor (R–VA) as well as Judi­ciary Immi­gra­tion Sub­com­mit­tee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC).  Speaker Boehner called on leg­is­la­tors to reject hate­ful com­ments that he said were “deeply offen­sive and wrong and said they did “not reflect the val­ues of the Amer­i­can peo­ple or the Repub­li­can Party.”

We hope Speaker Boehner and the House lead­er­ship take note of this page from their own play­book and fol­low their own exam­ple again.

Con­fronting vio­lent extrem­ism from Islamist move­ments is an urgent and seri­ous task for gov­ern­ments and law­mak­ers all over the world.

Pro­vid­ing a plat­form for the basest kind demo­niz­ing of Mus­lims, or of any faith, does lit­tle to make Amer­i­cans safer. America’s high­est ideals of reli­gious lib­erty and the need to con­front ter­ror­ism from groups like ISIS and al Qaida with real pol­icy solu­tions com­pels Con­gress to do better.

 

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