Recently, the AHA and 38 groups supporting the freedom of religious belief and practice joined together in sending a letter of support for the US Department of Justice’s plan to expand the ban on profiling to include one’s religious or nonreligious affiliation. The letter, sent to Attorney General Eric Holder, comes after a recent New York Times report on the Department’s efforts at such an expansion.
Read the letter below.
March 12, 2014
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Holder:
As organizations that advocate for the freedom of religion and belief for all, we write to highlight our objections to profiling based on religion, which may sometimes be used as a proxy for race, ethnicity, or national origin, in law enforcement. We are encouraged by a recent report in The New York Times that the Department of Justice is working to expand rules prohibiting the use of profiling by federal law enforcement agencies. According to the report, one of the changes under consideration would expand the definition of profiling to include profiling based on an individual’s religion, national origin, gender, and sexual orientation. We support the inclusion of religion and we stand with the larger civil rights community in its efforts to prohibit profiling.
The freedom of religion and belief is one of our most treasured liberties, a fundamental and defining feature of our national character. Our Constitution guarantees that we are free to hold any religious belief, or none at all, and we are free to join together in communities to exercise those beliefs if we so choose. As a result, the United States is among the most religious, and religiously diverse, nations in the world. Our diversity of faiths and beliefs is a great strength.
We appreciate that most law enforcement officials discharge their duties honorably. Yet, when law enforcement profiles individuals and communities based solely on their real or perceived religion, religious appearance, religious observance, or religious practices, it undermines Americans’ trust in those sworn to protect them and our nation’s commitment to religious liberty and equal protection of the law. Furthermore, such actions not only have the effect of discriminating against religion generally and religious minorities in particular, but also fuel divisiveness by casting suspicion over entire communities.
Because religious freedom is one of our most fundamental values, it is critical that federal law enforcement not participate in this discriminatory practice of profiling based on religion. This policy change would be an important addition to this administration’s legacy of protecting and defending religious liberty.
Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to working with the Department to find ways to protect religious freedom and civil rights for all.
African American Ministers in Action
American Civil Liberties Union
American Humanist Association
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Arab American Institute
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
Catholics for Choice
Center for Inquiry
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Council for Secular Humanism
The Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Faith in Public Life
Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Hindu American Foundation
Institute for Science and Human Values
Islamic Society of North America
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
The Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
National Council of Jewish Women
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good
Office of Public Witness, Church of the Brethren
People For the American Way
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
The Sikh Coalition
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society