Press Release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee; April 11, 2011:
A bill that grossly mischaracterizes an entire religious belief system–Islam–under the guise of combating terrorism will be taken up in both Senate and House committee this week.
SB 1028/HB 1353 would give the Tennessee Attorney General extraordinary discretion to designate organizations as “sharia organizations” if they are involved in “acts of terrorism” without notice, probable cause, or a meaningful opportunity to defend themselves. The bill uses a definition of terrorism so broad that even peaceful groups engaging in non-violent demonstrations could potentially be branded as terrorists.
While the sponsors say they plan to amend the bill to strip any language that targets Muslims specifically, its clear original intent will cause lingering fears in the Muslim community that the government will harass and target them for practicing their faith.
The bill is also completely unnecessary—the federal government already has ample authority to identify and designate terrorist groups, freeze their assets, and prohibit individuals from providing support to those groups.
Even if amended, this bill still raises serious First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment concerns with its vague definitions and its lack of due process for designated organizations.