Religious Rights

Sudan: The choice for freedom

On July 9, the world will witness the birth of a new nation and a triumph for religious freedom and related rights. The people of South Sudan chose independence in a January referendum mandated by a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA), of which the United States was the primary broker. Signed in 2005, the agreement ended Sudan’s 22-year north/south civil war.

The war was triggered by the brutal attempts of the Khartoum regime in the north to impose its extremist version of Islam, leading the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), on which we serve, to deem it among the world's most egregious religious freedom abusers. Of the two million Sudanese dead, four million driven from their homes, and many forced into slavery, most were southern Christians and followers of traditional African religions, as well as hundreds of thousands of Nuba Muslims declared apostate and targeted in the same conflict by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s regime.


What Eid al-Adha means for Muslims and America (Rep. Mike Honda)

This week, as chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I introduced legislation, cosponsored with Reps. Keith Ellison and André Carson, recognizing the cultural and religious significance of Eid al-Adha.

I wish all Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world a prosperous holiday and stand with them in recognizing the importance of sacrifice, freedom and justice.  Muslim Americans contribute substantially to the success and pluralism of the United States, making significant strides in all areas of national discourse, development and diplomacy.  As award-winning scientists, doctors, engineers, athletes, artists, ambassadors and an estimated 10,000 Armed Service men and women, Muslim Americans continue to serve the greater good of our county.


Building an inclusive America

The debate around Park 51 has polarized into two opposing camps who claim they can’t find common ground. On the one hand are people who say the sensitivity of 9/11 families means a Muslim group should not build a community center near Ground Zero - even one where interfaith cooperation is the goal. On the other side are people who say the American tradition of religious freedom requires us to allow this group to build where they wish.


Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's right

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has called for the Ground Zero Cordoba Mosque under extremist, anti – U.S., pro – Hamas Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, being planned 600 feet from the scene of the 9/11 Islamist terrorist attack which murdered 3,000 Americans, not to be built. The ZOA supports the stand taken by the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in opposing the construction of Rauf’s mosque. The ZOA’s National Convention on August 8th passed overwhelmingly a resolution opposing the construction of this extremist Imam Rauf’s mosque.


In support of religious freedom for Muslims in America

At a time when the civil and constitutional rights of Muslims are under attack throughout the United States, I celebrate the statement made by President Obama on August 13th, which affirmed the right of the American Muslim community to establish houses of worship, and expand current facilities when required by our community needs.  This right of religious freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment of United States Constitution. 


The incremental Islamization of America

According to polls, nearly seventy percent of Americans are against building a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. They instinctively understand that it’s offensive to build a mosque near the ground where radical Islamists perpetrated the worst domestic attack in American history. The majority of Americans believe in freedom of religion, but they know this issue is not about that.

Rather than debating whether or not Muslims should be allowed to build a mosque at Ground Zero (they have a Constitutional right to do so), we should be questioning why they insist on building it in that exact location.  There is no significant Muslim population in lower Manhattan, much less one that requires a $100 million community center. Therefore, it stands to reason that the proposed center’s proximity to Ground Zero, where Muslims killed nearly 3,000 people, is the primary impetus for its construction.


The ‘Ground Zero’ mosque: An open letter to Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)

Dear Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.),

After hearing your recent comments on a plethora of media outlets regarding the lack of “responsibility” in building a Mosque and Islamic cultural center (“the Cordoba House”) two blocks away from Ground Zero, I have grave concerns. While I appreciate that you fully recognize the Constitutional right, and more broadly the legal right, for the Cordoba House to be built in its Park 51 location, I feel that you are sorely misguided in your request that the proposed center be moved to a “more suitable” location for several reasons.


The Ground Zero mosque and the legitimate boundaries of religious freedom

A recent CNN poll shows that 68% of Americans oppose the construction of the mosque and Islamic center planned near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.  Most Americans don’t know that the mosque’s proposed name is Cordoba House, nor do they realize that the first Cordoba Mosque was built by Muslims in Cordoba, Spain after they conquered the Spanish kingdom.  Many historians see the mosque there as a symbol of the conquest of Spain by the forces of Islam.


Opponents of mosque using fear to divide

Last Thursday evening hundreds of residents in my hometown of Murfreesboro, Tenn., attended the Rutherford County Commission meeting to express their outrage over a proposed Islamic center of worship in the community. This is just the latest in a string of incidents around the country threatening the constitutional rights of Americans just like you and I. A group of citizens recently blocked a proposed mosque in Brentwood, Tenn. There are a growing number of people who are opposed to a mosque planned near ground zero in Manhattan. The events of 9/11 and other actions taken by al Qaeda planted the seeds of dissent, intolerance, hatred and fear. Those seeds are growing. Al Qaeda's endgame is destroying our way of life, our American principles and values.


Faith-based groups should play by the same rules

Last week, a coalition of 58 religious, civil liberties, and education organizations--including the American Humanist Association, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Baptist Joint Committee--sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to direct the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to review and ultimately withdraw a 2007 legal memo that sets a dangerous precedent for religious liberty and civil rights.

The legal memo in question concerns the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA was enacted in 1993 in order to nullify a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that curtailed Free Exercise rights (Employment Div. v. Smith). RFRA aimed to restore free exercise protections by prohibiting the government from imposing a “substantial burden” on a person’s free exercise of religion unless they could demonstrate a compelling governmental interest, and in such a case that interest must be achieved by the least restrictive means.