CAIR Opposes Confirmation of Sen. Sessions at Attorney General
Muslim civil rights group urges senate committee to question AG nominee on anti-Muslim remarks, associations with hate groups, respect for civil rights
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/5/17) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today announced its opposition to the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as attorney general of the United States.
“Senator Sessions’ past statements and troubling views on issues impacting American Muslims and other minority communities make him unfit to serve as attorney general,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Awad said CAIR is also calling on all Americans to urge members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to question Sen. Sessions about his past anti-Muslim statements, current associations with anti-Muslim hate groups and his views on a number of civil rights issues during next week’s confirmation hearing.
TAKE ACTION: See Phone Numbers and Call Script Below
CAIR has already expressed its concerns to members of the committee, and now the Washington-based civil rights organization is urging community members to do the same by contacting all members of that committee to urge that they question Sen. Sessions about the following issues of concern:
1. Question Sen. Sessions on His Support for Trump’s Religious Test to Ban Muslims Traveling to the United States
In December 2015, Sessions voted against and publicly lashed out at a nonbinding amendment seeking to prevent a religious litmus test for people entering into the United States. The amendment had been offered by ranking Senate Judiciary Committee Member Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
During that vote, Session said: “Many people are radicalized after they enter. How do we screen for that possibility, if we cannot even ask about an applicant’s views on religion? Would we forbid questions about politics? Or theology?”
Following the horrific shooting at an Orlando nightclub Sessions also warned Americans on FOX News Sunday in June 2016 to “slow down” on foreign born admissions into the United States, particularly those with Islamic backgrounds. “It’s a real part of the threat that we face and if we can’t address it openly and directly and say directly that there is an extremist element within Islam that’s dangerous to the world and has to be confronted.”
2. Question Sen. Sessions About Upholding the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)
In the past 10 years, the DOJ has opened 51 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons act (RLUIPA) investigations, filed seven lawsuits under RLUIPA’s land-use provisions and participated in 40 privately filed lawsuits. A number of these cases have been in support of the right of religious minorities, including Christians, Jews, Muslim, and Sikh communities. RLUIPA protects individuals, houses of worship, and other religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and landmarking laws.
In December 2016, the Center for Security Policy published “a practical primer for assessing mosque land use applications” entitled Mosques in America: A Guide to Accountable Permit Hearings and Continuing Citizen Oversight. Given Sen. Sessions close associations with the Center for Security Policy, CAIR questions Sessions ability as Attorney General to support the right of American Muslims to construct houses of worship in the same manner one would expect him to support other religious communities.
3. Question Sen. Sessions Over His Association Anti-Muslim Hate Groups
In 2015, Sen. Sessions accepted the “Keeper of the Flame” award from the anti-Muslim hate group Center for Security Policy, whose leader Frank Gaffney has asserted his belief in the conspiracy theory that President Obama is Muslim, writing “…there is mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself.”
The FBI said a Center for Security Policy report is based on “outdated information” and “overstated” any threat Muslim observances pose to America.
Sen. Sessions has also accepted the “Annie Taylor Award” in 2014 from the anti-Muslim hate group the David Horwitz Freedom Center and attended the group’s annual “Restoration Weekend” Florida retreat events in 2008, 2010 and 2013.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks hate movements in the United States, labels David Horowitz “the godfather of the modern anti-Muslim movement.”
4. Question Why Sen. Sessions Sent a Letter to the National Endowment for the Humanities Demanding Their Justification for Funding the “Muslim Journeys Bookshelf” Program
In October 2013, Sen. Sessions as Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee sent a letter to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in part demanding a justification for why the NEH was “promoting” Islamic cultures at the expense of Christian and Jewish cultures.
The purpose of NEH’s Muslim Journeys program is to “offering resources for exploring new and diverse perspectives on the people, places, histories, beliefs, and cultures of Muslims in the United States and around the world.”
5. Question Sen. Sessions About Allegations of Racist Comments
In 1986, Sen. Sessions was accused of making racist comments while serving as a U.S. attorney in Alabama, including calling an African-American assistant U.S. attorney “boy.” Sessions has called the NAACP and the ACLU “un-American” and “communist-inspired.”
6. Question Sen. Sessions About Police Reform, Voting Rights, Civil Rights
Sen. Sessions should also be questioned about his views on other critical issues such as police-involved shootings, protection of voting rights, enforcement of hate crimes laws, discrimination in education, and immigration reform.
TAKE ACTION TODAY AND CALL MEMBERS OF THE SENATE JUDICARY COMMITTEE
“Hello, my name is [YOUR NAME] and I am calling to urge Senator [NAME OF SENATOR] to oppose the conformation of Attorney General Nominee Senator Jeff Sessions and to strongly question him about his past anti-Muslim statements and current associations with anti-Muslim hate groups as well as alleged racist remarks during next week’s confirmation hearing taking place Tuesday, January 10.”
Specifically, I urge the Senator to question Sen. Sessions about:
• His support for President-elect Trump’s religious test to ban Muslim travels to U.S.
• Whether or not he would uphold the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)
• His association and acceptance of awards from the anti-Muslim hate groups Center for Security Policy and David Horwitz Freedom Center.
• As Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, his demanding that the National Endowment for the Humanities justify why it supported educational programs about Muslims in the U.S.
• Allegations over his calling an African-American assistant U.S. attorney “boy” and him calling the NAACP and the ACLU “un-American” and “communist-inspired.”
• His views on other critical issues such as police-involved shootings, protection of voting rights, enforcement of hate crimes laws, discrimination in education, and immigration reform.
There are millions of American Muslims in the United States making innumerable contributions to our nation’s cultural fabric and economic well-being. The civil rights of all persons in the U.S., including Muslims, should be protected and preserved by the next attorney general.”
Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA): (202) 224-3254
Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT): (202) 224-4242
Committee Membership (ordered by state)
Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ): (202) 224-4521
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): (202) 224-3841
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT): (202) 224-2823
Senator Christopher A. Coons (D-DE): (202) 224-5042
Senator David Perdue (R-GA): (202) 224-3521
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL): (202) 224-2152
Senator David Vitter (R-LA): (202) 224-4623
Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC): (202) 224-6342
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): (202) 224-3244
Senator Al Franken (D-MN): (202) 224-5641
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY): (202) 224-6542
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI): (202) 224-2921
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX): (202) 224-5922
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX): (202) 224-2934
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC): (202) 224-5972
Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT): (202) 224-5251
Senator Michael S. Lee (R-UT): (202) 224-5444
If you have difficulty reaching senate offices using these numbers, call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be transferred.
Featured image by Gage Skidmore.