ADC Welcomes Recent Outreach Initiatives by Attorney General Gonzales
Washington, DC | February 28, 2007 | Today, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), welcomed several new outreach initiatives made by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in recent weeks.
ADC appreciates recent comments made by the Attorney General to a meeting of US Attorneys in South Carolina. Gonzales told the US Attorneys, “As U.S. Attorneys, upholding civil liberties is utterly central to your work. As leaders in your communities, talking about how we as a government achieve the balance between individual rights and national security is a matter of civic responsibility.” The Attorney General continued, “You also have a duty to show your colleagues and your districts that we are not engaged in a struggle against a faith or religion. On the contrary, we very much need the partnership of the Muslim community. Discouraging radicalism is vital, and that cannot be done effectively without Muslim community leadership. So seek it out in your districts. We believe in religious freedom for everyone. The Department of Justice is committed to protect these rights, and in doing so, I think we promote trust and provide an alternative way to that of radicalization.”
Additionally, in a recent interview with the conservative Christian Broadcasting Network News, Gonzales said, “It‘s something we worry about, naturally, when people see images on the television screen that these are the enemies of America, they may naturally assume anyone who looks like these people, or have the same religious belief – that, in fact, they constitute enemies of the United States. And that‘s just not true.”
Moreover, ADC welcomes the launch of The First Freedom Project. This project, announced last week by Attorney General Gonzales, is designed to provide additional enforcement tools for laws against religious discrimination and hate crimes. Part of this new initiative includes a series of regional training seminars for religious, civil rights and community leaders, attorneys, government officials, and others interested in religious liberty issues. The first seminars will be held in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 29, followed by others scheduled for Tampa, Florida and Seattle, Washington. For more information see http://www.firstfreedom.gov
PRESS RELEASE FROM US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION
US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Announces The First Freedom Project
On Tuesday, Attorney General Gonzales announced a new Department of Justice initiative, The First Freedom Project, to strengthen enforcement of laws against religious discrimination and hate crimes, and other laws protecting religious freedom. He also unveiled a new website about the initiative, www.firstfreedom.gov.
In conjunction with announcing the initiative, the Attorney General released a Report on Enforcement of Laws Protecting Religious Liberty. The report details the efforts of the Department of Justice over the past six years to increase enforcement of laws protecting religious freedom. An electronic version of the report is available on at www.firstfreedom.gov. For hard copies, please write to FirstFreedom@USDOJ.gov.
As the Attorney General said in his introduction to the report, from 2001 to 2006 the Department achieved “a dramatic rise in the number of cases brought to protect the religious rights of all Americans in category after category.” “But this,” the Attorney General stated, “should be only the beginning. Preserving religious liberty requires an ongoing commitment to protecting this most basic freedom for people of all faiths.”
To ensure that religious freedom rights are protected, the First Freedom Project encompasses a variety of measures to ensure vigorous enforcement of these laws, and educate members of the public about their rights.
The initiative includes:
-A commitment to increased enforcement in all areas of the Department‘s jurisdiction.
-Creation of a Department-wide Religious Freedom Task Force, chaired by Assistant Attorney General Wan Kim, to review Department policies, practices and litigation to ensure that religious liberty is protected.
-A series of regional training seminars for religious and community leaders, government officials, and attorneys to learn about religious freedom laws from senior Department of Justice officials. The first seminars are slated for Kansas City, Missouri on March 29, Tampa, Florida on April 25, Seattle Washington on May 10, with more to come throughout 2007. An information sheet about the seminars is attached.
-The launch of our new website, www.firstfreedom.gov to provide information and literature about all of the Department‘s activities in this area.
For more information about the First Freedom Project, contact the Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination, Eric W. Treene, at (202) 353-8622 or send an email to FirstFreedom@usdoj.gov.