(WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/3/2015) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today expressed its opposition to state-level legislative efforts that appear aimed at protecting bias under the guise of religious liberty.
In a statement, CAIR said:
“CAIR believes the recent wave of state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA) represents a cynical move intended to protect bias under the guise of religious liberty.
“The federal RFRA is a powerful tool to protect the rights of religious minorities to practice their religion when such practice would violate laws written without their needs in mind.
“Under RFRA, if federal law burdens someone's religious practice, that person is entitled to violate the law unless the government can prove it had a 'compelling interest' to protect in enacting the law and the law is as 'narrowly tailored' in its rules to protect that interest as it can be. In other words, RFRA provides a defense to a defendant who is prosecuted or sued by the government.
“CAIR recently invoked RFRA in a lawsuit seeking to uphold the rights of a U.S. Navy service member who was subjected him to intense harassment targeting his Islamic beliefs.
“In contrast, the newer state RFRAs include provisions not in the 1993 federal statute that ensure that they will be used in private lawsuits brought to enforce civil rights laws and to be used by corporate, rather than individual defendants. We can foresee circumstances in which such provisions can be used to permit bias targeting members of minority faiths.
“CAIR opposes all forms of discrimination, particularly when such discrimination is given the cover of law. Ibn al Qayyim, a notable Islamic jurist, once wrote: “The foundation of the sharia is wisdom and the safeguarding of people's interests in this world and the next. In its entirety it is justice, mercy and wisdom. Every rule which transforms justice to tyranny, mercy to its opposite, the good to the evil, and wisdom to triviality does not belong to the sharia.”
“As one of the country's foremost defenders of religious freedom, CAIR asserts that such legislation is detrimental to our goal of making democracy work for everyone.”
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.