By Bob Allen
As the Senate opened formal debate on a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform, a group of religious organizations called on senators to include a ban on religious profiling in the final package.
An 844-page legislative plan developed by a bipartisan group of eight senators prohibits the use of race or ethnicity as a factor in “routine or spontaneous law enforcement decisions, such as ordinary traffic stops” but does not specify factors of religion and national origin.
In a joint statement organized by the Interfaith Alliance, faith leaders called it a “glaring loophole” that needs to be closed.
“By omitting religion and national origin in this manner, Congress would effectively give law enforcement the go-ahead to target Americans based on these defining characteristics,” the faith leaders said.
Since other sections of the same bill prohibit discrimination based on religion, the faith leaders inferred the omission is intentional.
Signers of the letter include Interfaith Alliance head Welton Gaddy, an ordained Baptist minister, and Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
“We appreciate that most law enforcement officials discharge their duties honorably,” they said. “Yet, when law enforcement profiles individuals based solely on their real or perceived religion, it undermines our nation’s commitment to religious liberty and equal protection of the law — not to mention our security.”
The faith leaders said such actions “not only have the effect of discriminating against religion generally and religious minorities in particular,” but they also “fuel divisiveness by casting suspicion over an entire religious community.”