Racial and Religious Profiling

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The Interfaith Alliance calls on TIA members and friends, and all Americans who believe in religious freedom and equal justice under the law, to urge the United States Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA). Those who value religious liberty and equality must send a strong, unified message that racial and religious profiling is illegal and immoral.


What this Legislation Will Do:
The End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) seeks to remedy these injustices. ERPA is expected to be introduced in this Congress with bi-partisan support of elected officials, including Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Christopher Shays (R-CT). ERPA will:

  • Ban racial and religious profiling by local, state and federal law enforcement officers;
  • Require – and allocate funds for— data collection and reporting;
  • Require independent complaint and officer discipline procedures; ,/li>
  • Authorize withholding of federal funding for non-compliance with ERPA; and
  • Provide a right for plaintiffs to sue.

Why America Needs ERPA:
In a nation where pluralism and respect for diversity are guaranteed, the targeting of specific individuals because of their race, religion, or perceived religion is unacceptable. All Americans should be able to live free from the fear of being unduly targeted by law enforcement simply because of their skin color or religious beliefs.

Most law enforcement agents discharge their duties honorably, and do not engage in racial and/ or religious profiling. Prior to 9/11, there was a commitment from Congress and President George W. Bush to end racial profiling. Unfortunately, profiling based on religion, race, ethnicity, and national origin (also known as “driving while black or brown”) continues to persist. However, the September 11th attacks also caused a dramatic rise in the inappropriate profiling of Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs, and South Asians.

Whether it’s for traffic stops or FBI interrogation, racial and religious profiling is illegal under the equal protection guarantee of the Constitution; It violates the 14th Amendment (which includes the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses) and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance).

Studies and data show that profiling is a tactic practiced on a regular basis by many law enforcement agents, whether intentional or subconscious. Singling out individuals based solely on their appearance for investigation by law enforcement is ineffective and dishonest. Racial and religious profiling has been shown to be an ineffective policing tool, often distracting law enforcement from the actual perpetrators of the crimes being investigated. Racial and religious profiling ultimately destroys trust in the police and government authorities. It also alienates racial and religious minorities, thus diminishing cooperation and effective law enforcement.

Justice Department guidelines against racial and religious profiling were well intended but aren’t effective in today’s society. They do not apply on the state and local levels, where most profiling occurs; they don’t require data collection that helps to identify and stop profiling; and they come with no enforcement mechanism.

We unfortunately live in a time when the threat of terrorism is always with us. However, there is no evidence that the aggressive, abusive tactics targeting specific religious minority groups have had any effect on diminishing that threat. Rather, they have exacerbated the divides within our communities.

Additional Information:
Click here to read a comprehensive report by our colleagues at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights on pre-and post-9/11 religious and racial profiling.