Written by Don Byrd

The son and ex-wife of legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali testified before a congressional forum Thursday organized by House Democrats. The two have announced an effort to combat religious profiling after they were detained at an airport and claim they were asked repeatedly about their religion. Officials deny their extended screening was related to their religion. The stop occurred just after President Trump’s original Executive Order on immigration went into effect. 

The Washington Post reports that the purpose of the forum was to promote legislation (see Senate Bill 411 here) introduced in the U.S. Senate.

The new legislation touted by Ali was introduced in the Senate last month under the modified name “End Racial and Religious Profiling Act” by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.). If passed, the act would prohibit federal, state and local law enforcement officers, which would include Customs and Border Protection officers stationed at airports, from detaining or otherwise targeting anyone based on race, religion and several other personal characteristics.

“We must step into the ring and fight this thing and keep fighting it until it’s done because it will be done,” said Camacho-Ali, who was married to the legendary boxer from 1967 to 1977.

Then the two were apparently detained again on their way back to Florida.

The Baptist Joint Committee has consistently spoken out against the use of religious profiling as a technique of law enforcement, including in immigration policy. As BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler recently said, “The Baptist Joint Committee remains concerned that this administration is using religious identity as a proxy for ‘security threat’ and a reason for exclusion.”

President Trump’s revised Executive Order, which goes into effect next week, removes some of the original order’s most explicitly troubling provisions from a church-state perspective, including a preference in refugee admission based on religious status. Bur religious liberty concerns remain about the Administration’s purpose and implementation of the new policy.

A lawsuit (pdf) filed by the State of Hawaii claims the revised order violates the separation of church and state and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The claims revolve around statements made by President Trump and his administration indicating a desire to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. may have motivated the action, will “have the effect of disfavoring Islam,” and will unlawfully restrict religious-based travel to and from the United States.