Written by Don Byrd
Today the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty joined more than 120 national, state and local organizations in calling on the Department of Justice to open an investigation into improper surveillance practices of the New York Police Department recently uncovered through investigative reporting. In a letter to the heads of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, the groups argue that ten years of religious profiling and improper monitoring directed at New York’s Muslim communities jeopardize their civil rights.
This surveillance is based on the false and unconstitutional premise, reflected in the NYPD’s published “radicalization” theory, that Muslim religious belief, practices, and community engagement are grounds for law enforcement scrutiny. That is a premise rooted in ignorance and bias: it is wrong and unfairly stigmatizes Muslims, who are a law-abiding, diverse, and integral part of our nation and New York City. Unsurprisingly, the NYPD’s surveillance program has had far-reaching, deeply negative effects on Muslims’ constitutional rights by chilling speech and religious practice and harming religious goals and missions.