Foster care placement bill is another lame duck disaster

DEC 10, 2014, 6:00 AM

Foster care placement bill is another lame duck disaster

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/politics/2014/12/10/foster-care-placement-bill-another-lame-duck-disaster/

 

Lame duck lawmakers in Lansing are at it again, passing controversial legislation as they did two years ago.

One such bill, which just made it out of the House, is Bill No. 4991. On its face, 4991 will protect the sincerely held religious beliefs of non-government agencies that are involved in child placement. In reality, this bill, if it is passed by the State Senate then signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, will open up the door to religious-based discrimination that will be enabled by tax dollars.

I believe strongly that religious non-profit organizations and institutions have the right to discriminate based upon their bona religious beliefs and values in some circumstances. Churches, temples and mosques have the right not to hire clergy who disbelieve in their particular theologies. It would make no sense for an Evangelical Church to be compelled to hire — or even consider — a rabbi as its pastor, for instance. Likewise, private religious schools have the right to exclude teachers who believe and articulate issues that run counter to the institution’s doctrines. I wouldn’t want an atheist to be teaching religious studies at the Islamic school which my children attend. This is protected discrimination of non-profit religious organizations under the Free Exercise Clause.

The problem with this legislation is that it would allow discretion of placement agencies receiving tax dollars to deny placing children in suitable foster care homes based upon moral subjectivity.

It is simply inappropriate for agencies receiving state funding to have the ability to discriminate as to how children are placed in foster care homes based on their self-determined religious or moral convictions. We simply cannot trust the goodwill of organizations to place children in suitable homes for their overall well-being in, when those entities and their employees could have religious and political biases against certain segments of the population.

With all of the economic and educational challenges facing our state, it’s mind-boggling that such divisive legislation would be introduced by the House. If passed into law, this will undoubtedly be challenged in the courts and add to the perception that many hold across America that Michigan is a dysfunctional state.

If this passes the State Senate, I hope Gov. Snyder shows the good sense to veto the legislation,  which appears, on its face, to be unconstitutional. It’s better for the State Senate at this point to do nothing and clean out their offices instead of passing legislation that will waste hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money in defending it from litigation at the federal level.

A Muslim inmate’s beard isn’t a security risk. It’s his constitutional right

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/03/prisoner-beard-religious-right-supreme-court

A Muslim inmate’s beard isn’t a security risk. It’s his constitutional right

The idea that any contraband could be hidden in a short beard is laughable. But trampling a man’s religious freedom isn’t funny

 

In my communications with Muslim prisoners, many of whom have converted to Islam while in detention, I came to understand their struggles: incarceration is a dehumanizing experience. Prisoners who sit behind steel doors in cinder-block cells for months or even years can lose hope of a future – especially convicted felons, who know that their prospects of economic dignity upon release are almost non-existent. What keeps many of these men peaceful while incarcerated (and helps shield them from sinking into depression) is their faith.

But soon, the US supreme court will hear arguments as to whether a Muslim inmate has the right to wear a 13mm (0.5in) beard in an Arkansas prison. The inmate, Gregory H Holt, argues that he has a bona fide religious belief that is being impeded by the state by not allowing his long beard, while the government’s rebuttal is that such a beard poses a security threat to his person and other prisoners.

For Muslim prisoners unable to perform congregational prayers every day and who lack access to halal meat, something as seemingly mundane as a beard can be one of the few ways they are allowed to practice their faith.

As a Muslim who served in the US Navy, I understand how it feels to be separated from persons of my faith, as I was at sea during six-month deployments. Wearing a kufi cap during off-duty hours on the ship was my way of affirming my faith in an environment which I felt alone as a Muslim.

Over 40 states allow for beards shorter than the length of a dime to be worn by the incarcerated, though some allow for longer ones. Arkansas’s regulations, however, only allow “neatly trimmed” moustaches and beards up to a quarter of an inch for inmates who have dermatology issues like razor bumps.

Arkansas avers that it must ban the beards of prisoners such as Holt to maintain the integrity of its correctional facilitates, not to infringe on inmates’ freedom of religion. They bizarrely claim that contraband – such as marijuana or powdered drugs like cocaine and heroin – could be hidden in longer beards, as if buds of cannabis or baggies of dope would be undetectable in someone’s facial hair. (Of course, prisoners have other, less visible places to hide contraband – including in their own body cavities and inside their shoes.)

The idea that any contraband could be shielded from view nestled in a 13mm-long beard is laughable at best – and, as Holt argues, an intentional violation of his religious freedom at worst.

Prisoners of all faiths should be allowed to wear beards: it is not the job of American correctional facilities to mandate how people can wear their facial hair when everyday grooming is in keeping with their religious traditions. Making inmates conform to a clean-cut, less supposedly aggressive-looking appearance under the guise of maintaining security and order is hardly a compelling reason to violate their constitutional rights.

Given that the supreme court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that some corporations can refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to their workers on religious grounds, it will be interesting to see if justices grant the same deference to actual individuals’ religious rights as they did corporations. Arkansas’s discombobulated argument against Muslim inmates’ beards should make that easy.

Democracy is dead, civil rights leaders say

http://www.michronicleonline.com/index.php/breaking-news/6217-democracy-is-dead-civil-rights-leaders-say

Democracy is dead, civil rights leaders say

Created on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 09:16
Written by Minehaha Forman
IMG 30891

Democracy is dead. That was the message leadership from Rainbow PUSH Michigan, and other civil rights groups wanted to spread Monday morning by staging a mock funeral for democracy at Galilee Baptist Church in Detroit. The rally attracted nearly 50 people and was a stark protest to Public Act 4 and the Michigan Board of Canvassers’ failure to certify a petition for a ballot measure to let residents vote on whether the City of Detroit should allow a state mandated finance team to take over the city’s money during it’s financial crisis.

The purpose of the event was to call attention to threats to democracy in financially vulnerable cities such as Detroit and to organize leadership to fight for voting rights.

“We hope to get the word out,” said Alexander BullockState Coordinator of Rainbow Push Michigan and President of the NAACP Detroit Chapter. 
“This is as much about saving the vote as it is about stopping violence,” he said, noting a correlation between political apathy and lawless behavior including violence.

Instead of appointing a nine-member board to take over Detroit’s finances or a state appointed emergency financial manager, Bullock believes the city should lobby for a federal intervention.

He noted a recent report that Jack Martin, the Chief Financial Officer of Detroit’s mandated financial advisoryteam, called for advice and administrative help from the Obama administration.

“If a ‘competent’ guy is saying we need help from the Obama administration, then what do we need a financial board for?” Bullock asked. He said Detroit needs to call for a federal plan that targets public safety and supports small businesses.

Other human rights groups agreed. “Selling our democratic rights at a cheap price just because we’re in a crisis is absurd,” said Dawud Walid, President of the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “Public Act 4 is turning back the clock and disenfranchising American citizens,” He said, adding that state takeovers of Michigan cities have had a “disproportionate affect on people of color.”

The event was themed to bring attention to other voting rights issues such as voter suppression and voter suspension and challenging ballots as the 2012 presidential election draws closer.

Rev. Robert Smith, pastor at New Bethel Baptist Church, gave the eulogy at the mock funeral and said people need to become more educated on their rights. “I hope this wakes people up,” he said.

CAIR-MI Rep Speaks at ‘Funeral for Democracy’ Event

COMMENTS HERE:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18skOJ7PQI8

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CAIR-MI Rep Speaks at ‘Funeral for Democracy’ Event

CAIR-MI Rep Speaks at ‘Funeral for Democracy’ Event

(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 5/29/12) – A representative of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) yesterday spoke at a symbolic “Funeral for Democracy” event at the Galilee Baptist Church in Detroit, Mich.

The event, which was sponsored by Rainbow PUSH – Michigan, raised concerns about Michigan Public Act 4, which gives the governor and state treasurer authority to strip citizens of their voting rights through handpicking “emergency managers” to replace mayors, city councils and school boards.  

The event also focused on proposed voter ID legislation in the Michigan legislature, which copies voters ID laws in South Carolina Texas that were challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice for disproportionately effecting minorities. 

SEE: On Memorial Day in Detroit, a “funeral for democracy”
http://www.michiganradio.org/post/memorial-day-detroit-funeral-democracy

Speakers at the event included Rev. David Bullock (Rainbow PUSH – Michigan), Chris Michalakis (Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO), Rev. Robert Smith (New Bethel Baptist Church) and CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid.

“We join other civil rights organizations and people of faith in the calling for the reinstatement of voters’ rights for all citizens of Michigan,” said CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid.  “It is not within the spirit of justice to institute measures that specifically block certain groups’ voices from the democratic process.”

Walid also mentioned that all cities in Michigan, which objected to be given emergency managers are majority people of color while the city of Allen Park, which requested an emergency manager, yet was not given one, is a majority White-American.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Become a Fan of CAIR on Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/CAIRNational

Subscribe to CAIR’s E-Mail List
http://tinyurl.com/cairsubscribe

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CONTACT: CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid, 248-559-2247, E-Mail: dwalid@cair.com

U.S.-born terror suspects deserve legal due process and open trials

http://detnews.com/article/20111012/OPINION01/110120313/U.S.-born-terror-suspects-deserve-legal-due-process-and-open-trials

Last Updated: October 12. 2011 1:00AM

U.S.-born terror suspects deserve legal due process and open trials

Dawud Walid

 

The recent extrajudicial executions of two American citizens in Yemen is the latest and most troubling in a series of incidents that reflect the steady erosion of the United States Constitution under the Obama administration.

Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, who were citizens that advocated violence against fellow Americans, were deservedly on the radars of the CIA and FBI. Moreover, al-Awlaki clearly inspired Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to bring down an airplane over Detroit. And although al-Awlaki and Khan both projected a despicable message over the Internet, which I condemned in Metro Detroit mosques as well as online, I am extremely troubled by the undermining of the Constitution regarding their extrajudicial assassinations.

The facts are that al-Awlaki and Khan were never indicted, much less convicted, of any terrorism related crimes, were never formally requested to turn themselves in to the nearest United States embassy, nor were they actively engaged on a battlefield when they were executed via drone attack.

The Obama administration contends that it had the legal right to kill these two Americans through an executive order without providing evidence to the public because such evidence is a “state secret.” In addition, the administration killed them through the consultation of a secretive death panel in which there is no law establishing its existence or rules nor is there any public record of its operational procedures to conclude that any American is worthy of death without a trial.

If the same scenario were presented to the public without mentioning the name of the administration, many might conclude that this is the process of taking someone out in China or North Korea, not America.

The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution clearly articulates no person shall answer for a capital crime without having been indicted by a grand jury to then face charges against them.

After being charged, the Sixth Amendment provides persons with the right to be informed of the nature of criminal accusations in which they can confront the evidence against them. Regarding al-Awlaki and Khan’s executions, the Fifh and the Sixth Amendments were completely circumvented.

Mr. Obama, who was formerly a constitutional law professor, ran on a platform of transparency and the re-establishment of law and order after revelations were made public of tortured detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. However, his ordering extrajudicial killings of citizens without any charges being levied and zero transparency of the process for them being added to a hit list goes far beyond policies of the Bush administration. The current extrajudicial killing policy is both a threat to the spirit of the Constitution and our national security.

GOP presidential hopeful and former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson articulated the disturbing precedent that has now been established regarding al-Awlaki’s execution when he stated, “He was a U.S. citizen, and never before have we targeted a U.S. citizen for death.” If we as a nation compromise the Constitution for so-called good exceptions like extremists al-Awlaki and Khan, we truly do not know who this president and those to come will add to the hit list since there is no transparency in the process.

Our Founding Fathers foresaw this danger by conveying that Americans should be charged with crimes and have the ability to challenge evidence against them in a court of law.

The killings of al-Awlaki and Khan play right into the narrative of al-Qaida that America practices political hypocrisy by criticizing certain nations and people for certain behaviors then practices it herself.

While we confront adversaries from within and without that seek to harm us as a nation, our Executive Branch must exhibit and uphold the ethical standards set forth in the Constitution, which is one of the best weapons that we have in defeating the perverse ideology of al-Qaida.

Dawud Walid is CAIR-MI executive director.

Islamic school rezoning rejected by Pittsfield Township Planning Commission

*We plan on appealing this decision through the administrative process in Pittsfield Township.  If this fails, we plan on filing a federal complaint with the Department of Justice as well as take civil action against the township.

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http://www.annarbor.com/news/pittsfield-township-planning-commission-recommends-rejection-of-rezoning-for-islamic-academy/

Islamic school rezoning rejected by Pittsfield Township Planning

Commission

By Tom Perkins

annarbor.com Freelance journalist

August 5, 2011

A split Pittsfield Township Planning Commission rejected a rezoning request by a group hoping to build an Islamic school in the township.

In a 3-2 vote, the board voted to approve a motion to recommend that the Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees reject the zoning request by the Michigan Islamic Academy. The Board of Trustees has final authority and will vote on the issue at an upcoming meeting.

The biggest issue has been traffic concerns, but officials involved with the school say two separate traffic studies have found there would be little impact on traffic.

Commissioners Amy LongcoreDeborah Williams and Michael Yi voted to recommend against rezoning. Commissioners Michael Payne and Ann Harris voted against the recommendation. Commissioners Chris Wall and George Ralph weren’t present.

Harris and Payne both stated that the land will eventually be developed and there will be increased traffic no matter what is built. They said the traffic studies have shown residential development would actually cause more traffic than a school.

 

Tarek_Nahlawi.jpgTarek Nahlawi (left) at Thursday night’s meeting.

Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

 

Payne said he lives near a school and understands the traffic concerns, but said the increase would be minimal. He also pointed out that the planning commission always relied on traffic studies in the past and questioned why it’s now disregarding two studies.

“I think the traffic impact of a school will be less than 52 condos or a residential development – it is well-documented,” Payne said.

Williams disagreed, and she and Longcore both suggested the school find a different location that isn’t in a residential zone. They contended that residents in the neighboring Silverleaf subdivision didn’t know a school would be built next door when they purchased their homes, and to allow one would be unfair. “This is their home … and they bought this house thinking it was all residential lands,” Longcore said. “And it isn’t the only piece of land available in the township.”

The commissioners split their vote on the township’s findings along the same lines.

Tarek Nahlawi, an Islamic Academy board member, said he was disappointed with the vote. He said some of the issues commissioners said weren’t addressed – such as lighting, a landscape screen and pedestrian circulation – were brought up in meetings with the planning department and the commissioners had that information. He said the commissioners publicly stating that they didn’t have the information was “a cheap shot.”

About 125 residents attended and about 50 spoke during public comment. Most of those opposed to the plan stressed that they have no issue with the school being Islamic, but said their concerns centered around traffic, children’s safety and the school being inconsistent with the master plan.

Phil Stevens is a Silverleaf subdivision resident who said his property backs up to school’s property. He said the nearby Fortis school was also supposed to be a small school when it was built and it now has 750 students, which causes traffic issues in the area.

Plans call for a school that accommodates 360 kids, but he feared that the Islamic Academy and a possible community center could potentially bring several thousand people to the area.

Stevens said such a scenario would be “an absolute nightmare.”

“Nobody knows what things will be like 10 years from now,” he said. “The school could end up having 1,000 children, the community center could have 1,000 people.

“I don’t want to wake up 5-10 years and deal with thousands of people coming and going.”

Nahlawi clarified that the community center is no longer part of the plans. He said the school’s capacity will be 360 and 1,000 kids is “an amount we do not see reaching in the near future.” He also underscored that traffic studies indicated there wouldn’t be significant impact on traffic, and questioned why people continue to raise the issue.

“What is the point of conducting a study if its findings and facts are going to be refuted by opinion?” he asked the commissioners.

Supporters of the school highlighted the traffic studies and reiterated the school will remain small.

Several parents from the school pointed out there are 30 schools in Ann Arbor and, according to their findings, every school’s enrollment is higher than what is planned by the Michigan Islamic Academy. They also plotted the schools’ locations and each bordered residential zones. They questioned why none of those schools are considered a danger like the proposed the Islamic Academy.

The school is planned on a 26-acre parcel on the south side of Ellsworth, where Golfside dead-ends. Cars would exit via a new, short street that would create a four-way intersection at the dead-end.

 

Deborah_Williams.jpgPlanning Commissioner Deborah Wililams

Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

 

The driveway running in front of the school is designed to accommodate 70 cars and runs diagonally from Ellsworth to the new street. Nahlawi said the school, currently located on Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor, has nearly 200 students enrolled. Many families carpool and the school also has two buses and vans, Nahlawi said, so there wouldn’t be a situation where the traffic is backed up out to Ellsworth.

Dave Kubiske, an engineer with the David Archerconsulting firm, argued that the township’s master plan does allow for schools of a smaller size in residential zones.

The Council on American-Islamic Relationsrecently sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking them to monitor the situation. If the department finds evidence of a constitutional violation after the Board of Trustees makes its final decision, then it could launch a full investigation.

Lena Masri, a CAIR and Islamic Academy attorney, previously explained she believes the school’s religious rights could be violated because the township cannot deny it the right to operate due to a minor impact on traffic and noise. She said the traffic studies have demonstrated that traffic volume wouldn’t significantly increase.

At the meeting, she provided a detailed breakdown of how the site plan meets the township’s standards and stressed that the township cannot reject the plan based on subjective issues.

In a letter to the justice department, CAIR Director Dawud Walid expressed concern that opposed residents “negatively influenced the planning commission in making a decision against the Michigan Islamic Academy…” and stated that “derogatory remarks were also made regarding Muslims and their religious practice” during public comment at the June 16 meeting.

At the meeting, he told the commission a fear of property values dropping and other issues brought up are not legitimate reasons for the commission to reject a religious school that underReligious Institutions Land Use Protection Act.

Nahlawi said no adjustments would be made to the plan before it goes in front of the Board of Trustees. He said 60 percent of the school’s families live in Pittsfield Township and they aren’t finding another location or giving up.

“It’s not over yet,” he said.