As invective about the proposed Islamic center in Manhattan gets uglier, the Reform movement has joined with several other faith and advocacy groups in calling on the Obama administration to take stronger measures to “protect millions of American Muslims” and to take stronger steps to protect religious freedom in today’s overheated political climate.
The coalition, representing the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Interfaith Alliance, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and Muslim Advocates met with Justice Department officials yesterday and urged the administration to make a strong statement “underscoring the federal government’s commitment to religious freedom, condemning hate crimes and other forms of harassment and discrimination targeting the Muslim and other faith communities, and stating that the Department of Justice will hold perpetrators accountable.”
The group also wants the DOJ Civil Rights division to lead a “coordinated federal response to the backlash” against Muslim-Americans, and to “direct its Community Relations Service (CRS) offices to to act to defuse tensions where incidents have already occurred and in areas where incitement activities are expected to take place, such as Gainesville, FL where a church is planning to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of September 11.”
Also on their list of suggestions: making better use of the recently passed federal hate crimes law and creating a Civil Rights Division hotline for reporting hate crimes.
Meanwhile, Politics Daily is reporting that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is breaking with fellow Republicans and supporting the Islamic Center.
No surprise there; Hatch is a Mormon, a group that also sometimes has to fight for the right to build its religious institutions in the face of community “sensitivities,” and he was a key supporter of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalize Persons Act (RLUIPA), about which I have written previously.