Muslims, Christians, Jews, and People of Faith Could Be Punished For Their "Beliefs" In Tennessee

Could you, one day in the near future, be subject to arrest in Tennessee simply because the faith you were born into and believe in contains principles that state officials disagree with?

The answer, sadly, is yes — if legislators and the governor approve Senate Bill 1028/House Bill 1353, formerly known as the “anti-Shariah law bill’’ and newly worded to quash concerns over its potential to stir up discrimination against Muslims in Tennessee.

The rewording did not work. This bill, now presented as an anti-terrorism measure, manages through its broadened vagueness to demonize not only Muslims — its prime target — but any group because of its
ideology, even if its conduct is exemplary and its members break no laws.

Under pressure, Sen. Bill Ketron’s and Rep. Judd Matheny’s bill has been refashioned to remove pages and pages of reference to the evils of Shariah law, which is based in Islam but is not known to be practiced
anywhere in Tennessee. What they did not remove was the ability of the governor and state attorney general to designate a group as a domestic or foreign terrorist organization based on its thoughts and not its deeds.

 In their attempt to remove the proposed law’s conflict with the First Amendment, the Republican legislators seem to have forgotten about the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure and the Fifth Amendment guarantee of a fair trial and due process. Incidentally, they still have First Amendment
problems, too, in terms of religious freedom and the right to peaceably assemble.

Still Ketron and Matheny will tell you that the law now mirrors federal statute on designating groups as providing “material support’’ to terrorists.

As the American Civil Liberties Union has pointed out, with the federal law in place, why add a redundant state law? Even if you interpret the federal law to refer to foreign groups only, empowering the governor and
attorney general to determine who is a domestic terrorist not only exceeds the expertise of those offices, it undermines the work of law enforcement agencies that do have the expertise.

 The bill’s sponsors are suggesting that this is what is needed to prevent another 9/11 attack. In the wake of heated dispute over plans to expand an Islamic center in Rutherford County, it is unfolding more like
a witchhunt. Opponents of the Islamic center have tried to portray the purpose of the expansion as a training center for terrorism — an allegation for which there is absolutely no basis in fact.

If more of a connection is needed, consider that the author of the original version of Ketron’s and Matheny’s bill is David Yerushalmi, an Arizona attorney who heads an organization, the Society of Americans
for National Existence, that is considered a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League. Yerushalmi is closely linked to Frank Gaffney, head of a Washington think-tank who has been a key witness for plaintiffs
trying to block the Rutherford County mosque.

In any case, why wouldn’t the Tennessee legislators draft their own bill, perhaps with the help of their own legal advisers, instead of signing their name to a proposal written by an out-of-state activist? That is a
question that more Tennesseans should be asking of Ketron and Matheny. Also, ask them this: After their proposed law is used to antagonize and ostracize every Muslim who is a good citizen of the state of
Tennessee, who will be next? (This is the key, just imagine if your even an American Christian, however the Christian sect in power of the right wing could ban your beliefs, just like in the Council of Nicea, the same way the Romans made Christianity exclusively Roman Catholic.)



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