• First Amendment Under Assault, Again

    February 4, 2016 // 8 Comments »

    firstamendment_0

    When we speak of the government’s ongoing assault against the First Amendment, it is typically in the context of Freedom of Speech. That is indeed primarily the focus, using the tools of The State to silence its critics. But not if you are a Muslim.

    For many Muslims, the clause inside the First Amendment most often violated is that of Freedom of Religion. One of the latest battles in that war is playing out now in New York City.


    Because the worst of the 9/11 attacks happened in New York, the city has always claimed a kind of de facto exemption from having to follow the rule of law. Under its former mayors, the NYPD actively conducted blanket surveillance of the Muslim community, to include sending undercover cops into mosques and Muslim social events for “intel.” Though no obvious terror attacks were identified or thwarted, the NYPD insisted the program was critical (see the same tired arguments expelled as “torture worked, though we won’t tell you how.”)

    NY’s current mayor, Bill Blasio, promised in April of 2014 to dismantle the so-called NYPD Demographics Unit, which was responsible for singling out one religious group among all others, apparently based on the twisted post-9/11 logic of “Muslim –> Likely Terrorist –> Spy on all Muslims.”


    However, despite the promise, the NYPD has continued its spying in violation of the First Amendment.

    The most recent example was discovered when the website The Gothamist wrote about an NYPD undercover detective who converted to Islam to spy on students at a local college. The police admitted to the spying, but claimed it did not violate the First Amendment in that it was “targeted” and not “overarching blanket surveillance.” The undercover cop developed intimate ties with the students she met, even attending bridal showers and weddings. She also joined the school’s Islamic Society to gather information on Muslim students.

    Glenn Katon, legal director for Muslim Advocates and a lead attorney in Hassan v. City of New York, which alleges that the NYPD engaged in a program of “blanket, suspicionless surveillance” that discriminated on the basis of religion, recently won a small victory when the Third Circuit court found that the Hassan plaintiffs had standing and raised valid constitutional concerns, and reversed the suit’s previous dismissal. The courts had previously in that dismissal required the plaintiffs to prove on an individual and personal basis that they had been surveilled, a difficult request given that while the NYPD admitted blanket surveilling the Muslim community, it would not confirm individual cases (see “Catch-22” in the dictionary.)


    An attorney in another ongoing lawsuit against the NYPD, Handschu v. Special Services Division, stated that for a police officer to be placed undercover for as long as in the current case, there would have to be a terrorism enterprise investigation in place, which would require permission from the Commissioner of Intelligence and proof of an ongoing criminal conspiracy. No such terrorism enterprise or ongoing criminal conspiracy has even been alleged by the NYPD. They conducted the spying anyway based on the idea that terrorists are Muslims so therefore all Muslims must be treated as potential terrorists.


    Indeed, Handschu originally dates back to 1985, when the courts prohibited the NYPD from investigating political and religious organizations and groups unless there was “specific information” that the group was linked to a crime that had been committed or was about to be committed. Following 9/11, the NYPD has counter-sued, sought to modify and/or ignored what are known as the Handschu Guidelines as they wished.

    NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said, without apparent shame, that the need to prevent terrorist attacks sometimes comes into conflict with the need to respect the constitutional rights terrorists in theory are attacking. “We have two sets of tensions that pull against each other every day, and the hardest thing to have to do is find a balance.” Um, no. Our freedoms are ensured by the Constitution John Miller, that document you are sworn to uphold and protect.


    Miller might want to run his ideas by the Supreme Court, and perhaps a few of the innocent Muslim students whose religion alone put them under surveillance. They might argue that what the cops call the need for public safety indeed puts them outside the scope of Americans who qualify for that safety.




    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    ‘Christian’ Church Halts Woman’s Funeral Midway Because She Was Gay

    January 15, 2015 // 2 Comments »

    Collier_Vanessa


    Religion is not about hate. It is not about intolerance. It should never be used to harm innocents. Believers need to be very suspect of those who quote holy words to justify such things.

    Je Suis Vanessa Collier

    Hundreds of Vanessa Collier’s friends and family gathered Saturday at New Hope Ministries, sitting before an open casket that held the woman they loved, when suddenly the minister overseeing her funeral stopped the service.

    An hour-long viewing of Collier’s body had just finished and the memorial service was 15 minutes underway when Chavez stopped it.

    The memorial could not continue, Pastor Ray Chavez said, as long as pictures of Collier with the love of her life, the spouse she shared two children with, were to be displayed. Chavez said there could be no images of Collier with her wife, Christina. There could be no indication that Collier was gay. Because, Christianity.

    Hate Crime
    Chavez, who apparently read one line out of the Bible’s Old Testament and completely missed the entire point of love, caring, tolerance and peace in the entire freaking New Testament, committed a hate crime. He harmed every grieving friend and relative of the deceased, and harmed her children. “It was humiliating,” said Victoria Quintana, Collier’s longtime friend. “It was devastating.”

    Those who loved Collier picked up programs, flowers and eventually the dead woman’s casket itself, hand-carrying them to a mortuary across the street.

    A representative for New Hope Ministries declined to comment before hanging up on a Denver Post reporter on Tuesday. A biography on the church website says Chavez founded the ministry in 1981 with his wife, Lola. It says the church “is a place where those bound by drugs, alcohol, gangs and violence can find an ‘Ounce of Hope.'”

    About four dozen supporters of Ms. Collier and her family gathered outside of the church in protest, chanting “Give us an apology!” and “Shame on Pastor Ray!” Security guards were stationed in front of the building to ensure none of the marchers made their way onto the property.

    Collier’s friends say they still haven’t been reimbursed by New Hope Ministry for the cost of the funeral.

    Unclear from news reports is how the church was unaware that the deceased was a gay woman, and why that only became apparent to the hateful pastor well into the memorial service.

    And hey, if you have thoughts you’d like to share with the pastor, he and his church can be contacted online.

    Here is Pastor Chavez and what I assume is his hetero spouse:





    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America

    Redneck Georgia Town Bans Mosque

    December 8, 2014 // 7 Comments »

    muslimLet’s see, got my Bible right here… a lot of stuff in this thing about tolerance, loving each other, specifically love they neighbor.

    Hmm. They must be using a different version in Georgia, where a small town has used some odd twists on traffic laws to violate the First Amendment’s right to practice one’s religion, banning a mosque from opening. All together now — Freedumb!


    Kennesaw, Georgia, a pus-filled, hateful ashtray of a city of about 30,000 people in north Georgia, voted down a Muslim group’s request to rent an unused retail space and open a mosque in the city.

    The vote was 4-1 against as anti-Muslim protesters stood outside the meeting with signs such as “Ban Islam” and “Islam Wants No Peace!”

    Mayor Mark Matthews forbade comment inside from the public about religion, so critics instead said they opposed the mosque on the grounds parking. This despite the fact that the Muslim group had already agreed to limit attendance to 80 worshipers at a time in the 2,200 square foot space. The group also agreed to build 40 new parking spaces well-away from the nearby shopping area.

    The clever haters in Georgia figured they would get around that naughty old First Amendment to the Constitution (Note: the Constitution is that thingie that defines the freedom our troops are always fighting Muslims overseas to protect) by not, no sir, not in any way at all, making the mosque ban about religion. Nope. All the good white people of Kennesaw are concerned about is traffic issues in what no doubt is their busy and thriving downtown area.

    “This is not intended to be a religious debate or a discussion about people’s religious beliefs. It’s a purely technical hearing on the appropriate land use for a piece of property in the city of Kennesaw,” the mayor said.


    Oh wait, that’s bullsh*t.


    At a public hearing last month that had no limits imposed on discussing religion, Kennesaw residents shared things like this: “I am first a Christian and then an American citizen,” resident Jo Talley said. “As a Christian I am to put no other God before my Lord, and I am also to love my neighbor. If you know me, then you know that I do my best to do those things… but I also have the right to protect myself. This project has to do with Sharia law.”

    “You know, if Christianity were killing people, I’m pretty sure I would have a problem with it,” Pastor C.S. Clarke of the Redeemed Christian Fellowship Church added.

    Ashley Haspel, who owns a beauty salon, said she is concerned people attending the mosque would use too many parking places, leaving no room for her customers. “A worship center has no place being in a retail center… It would hurt our business not having the parking for our customers.”

    According to the application for the mosque, the daily prayer services would likely be attended by 10-20 people and the weekly prayer service 60-80 people. There are already 127 parking space, which would increase to 167 if the mosque is approved.

    Resident Anthony Bonner said the debate was “bigger than just zoning and parking. This is bigger than right and wrong. This is not a religious debate. This is about a comment on the value and the merits of a community.”

    A commenter added “Islam is a discriminatory religion so it is quite ironic to hear all the supporters of the mosque crying about discrimination.”

    Here’s one: “Should we accommodate a religion aiming to convert or kill the infidel, including the citizens of the United States? Islam is NOT a peaceful religion based on love. Should we aid the enemy?”

    An upstanding citizen stated “The scumbag lawyer for the terrorist organization says he will sue… good luck with that.”


    Another says on video “A retail space is not appropriate to a house of worship,” though by some odd quirk, the city allowed a Pentecostal church to rent a retail space for exactly the same purpose in July.



    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America