Thomas Perez, the Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said Tuesday that the department’s decision to file an amicus brief in support a mosque that affirmed Islam’s status as a religion was an action to defend a “very, very important principal that this nation has fought for, which is the principle of religious liberty.”
Asked by TPMMuckraker about the Department’s intervention into the controversy over the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tenn., Perez mentioned that he had traveled to the region and met with a “wonderful coalition” of not only the Muslim community, but also leaders from a number of faith communities.
“The look of fear in many of the leaders with whom we met was very disconcerting,” Perez said. “We reiterated the Attorney General’s very strong commitment to use every tool in the Department’s law enforcement arsenal to route out intolerance.”
Perez said the Justice Department prosecuted an arson of a mosque in Columbia, Tenn. and has active investigations of other incidents of potential criminal wrongdoing across the state, in Knoxville and elsewhere.
A member of the mosque called DOJ’s action a “blessing.”
The Murfreesboro mosque filing was made under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) as well as the Church Arson Prevention Act. A fire at a construction site there had been declared an arson, as opponents of the mosque’s construction have brought in Sharia law fearmonger Frank Gaffney.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has begun monitoring eight separate cases of alleged discrimination against Muslims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) since May 2010, according to a report issued last month.