A bill in the Tennessee Legislature that would basically outlaw Islam is obviously unconstitutional and an embarrassment to the entire state.
State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, the legislation’s sponsor, should withdraw the odious bill and issue an apology to all state residents, Muslims in particular.
The bill ostensibly addresses terrorism but in reality outlaws a religion. That’s unacceptable, unsupportable and unconscionable. It’s also unconstitutional on a variety of fronts.
Ketron’s bill would require the state attorney general to label any organization that advocates adherence to Shariah, the Muslim religious and legal proscriptions, as a terrorist group. The organization’s finances would be frozen immediately and members could face felony charges that could result in as many as 15 years in prison. Employees, presumably including school teachers and administrative assistants, are specifically targeted for possible prosecution.
A disclaimer that the law doesn’t apply to peaceful followers of Islam is laughable.
The bill also would set up the state attorney general as a grand inquisitor, giving the office sole authority to designate an outlaw organization using secret evidence out of the scrutiny of the public. Organizations wouldn’t be able to appeal the designation for two years.
Jailing Tennessee residents for practicing a religion is terrible to contemplate. The bill is repugnant and runs counter to America’s tolerance of all religious faiths. The Constitution forbids the enactment of a law that would interfere with the free exercise of religion, and Islam is one of the world’s oldest faiths.
The bill didn’t originate in Tennessee. According to The Associated Press, the Tennessee Eagle Forum gave the bill’s text to Ketron and House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma. Eagle Forum state President Bobbie Patray told the AP it was drafted by David Yerushalmi, an Arizona-based attorney who runs the Society of Americans for National Existence, a nonprofit that claims following Shariahh is treasonous.
Religious liberty is at the core of American values. Ketron’s bill poses a threat to those values and must be defeated. TAS