Washington, D.C. –Muslim Advocates sued the New York Police Department, on behalf of individuals and businesses who were subjects of unjust police surveillance, in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The suit seeks an end to the Department’s spying programs – which appear to target an entire community for surveillance based on their religion, rather than on suspicion of wrongdoing – and to have the records that were collected expunged. The Department’s history of surveillance was exposed by the Associated Press, and Interfaith Alliance has been vocal in its criticism of NYPD surveillance. Today, Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement on Muslim Advocates’ lawsuit:
I am pleased to see my colleagues at Muslim Advocates taking this important step in the fight to protect the civil and religious freedom rights of all Americans; I just wish it hadn’t come to this. Law enforcement uses many reasonable tactics to investigate and root out wrongdoing, but religion-based profiling crosses the line. There is much that we know about the surveillance conducted by the NYPD, thanks to months of impressive investigative reporting by the Associated Press and others; and yet, there is still so much that has not yet come to light, so much that officials in New York and New Jersey seem far too reluctant to investigate.
Religious profiling does not occur in a vacuum, and we must see this for what it is: just one more example of the poisonous climate of hate, ignorance, and fear of the “other” found in far too many hearts and minds in our nation. We are at a critical point in our nation’s history; today, too many Americans are willing to demonize and scapegoat fellow Americans who happen to be Muslim, and that must change.
No American should be a target of scrutiny, surveillance, or suspicion simply because of his or her religious beliefs or faith community. Religious profiling is not only a betrayal of the trust that American Muslims put in their government, but in the trust that all Americans put in the government. Subjecting individuals to such treatment simply because they belong, or appear to belong, to a particular religious community, has a chilling effect on religious and civic engagement, feeds the rampant suspicion and misunderstanding of Muslim Americans, turns First Amendment-protected beliefs and activities into cause for suspicion, and is an affront to the freedom of religion so paramount in our nation.
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.