Written Testimony of Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of Interfaith Alliance
The Senate Committee on the Judiciary,
Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights
for the Hearing Record on “Ending Racial Profiling in America.”
April 17, 2012
As a Baptist minister, a patriotic American and the President of Interfaith Alliance, a national, non-partisan organization that celebrates religious freedom, is dedicated to protecting faith and freedom, and whose 185,000 members nationwide belong to 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition, I submit this testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, for the record of the hearing on “Ending Racial Profiling in America.”
As the leader of an organization committed to protecting both faith and freedom for all Americans, I feel compelled to focus in particular on religious profiling. Interfaith Alliance’s work is guided by the fundamental principle that protecting religious freedom is most critical in times of crisis and controversy. Most law enforcement agents discharge their duties honorably, and do not engage in racial and/or religious profiling. Prior to 9/11, both Congress and President George W. Bush made a commitment to end the practice of racial profiling. However, the September 11th attacks caused a dramatic rise in the inappropriate profiling of Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs, and South Asians. This profiling based on religion, race, ethnicity, and national origin continues to persist today.
Numerous studies have shown that profiling is a tactic practiced on a regular basis, whether intentionally or subconsciously. Law enforcement’s singling out individuals for investigation based solely on their appearance 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. Furthermore, racial and religious profiling ultimately destroys trust in the police and government authorities, alienates racial and religious minorities, and diminishes cooperation and effective law enforcement.
Religious profiling does not occur in a vacuum. There exists in our country a pervasive and unsettling climate of anti-Muslim fear, bigotry and rhetoric in addition to a substantial general lack of understanding of Islam. This climate has created a fertile ground for increased religion-based profiling by law enforcement officials. For example, since August 2011, the Associated Press has released several reports detailing the New York Police Department’s intelligence-gathering activities, which targeted hundreds of schools, mosques, businesses, Muslim student associations, and individuals in the Northeast (even beyond New York City), with no given evidence of wrongdoing. Additionally, just last month, it came to light that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has gathered and recorded intelligence on American Muslims in Northern California based solely on their religion, under the pretense of community outreach programs.
Religious profiling is not only a betrayal of the trust that American Muslims put in their government, but in the trust that all Americans put in their government. To profile individuals simply because they belong, or appear to belong, to a particular religious community turns First Amendment-protected beliefs and activities into cause for suspicion and is an affront to the freedom of religion, paramount in our nation.
In a nation in which the freedom of religion and association are valued and central to national identity, targeting specific individuals because of their religion – or perceived religion – is unacceptable. All Americans should be able to live free from the fear of being unduly singled out by law enforcement simply because of their religious, racial, or ethnic appearance.There are few points in our nation’s history when the need to direct our attentions toward ending racial and religious profiling has been greater. Today, Americans all over the U.S., representing a diversity of racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds, feel the negative impact of this practice. We must affirm our fundamental moral and democratic values of equal protection and religious liberty while making our nation safer by ending this practice now.
Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.