(NASHVILLE, TN), February 23, 2011 — Legislation has been introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly to enhance Tennessee’s anti-terrorism law and allow state and local law enforcement to act decisively at the earliest point to stop terrorist acts. The bill, sponsored by Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma), aims to curb the incidence of homegrown terrorism like that of Memphian Carlos Bledsoe who stated he was following the call to “jihad” when he shot and killed a serviceman at the Arkansas Army recruiting station. (Senate Bill 1028 / House Bill 1353)
“The top priority of government should be to protect our citizens,” said Senator Ketron. “The nine-eleven attack and subsequent terrorist attacks have turned a new page in our nation’s history. All levels of government — national, state and local — must be a part of this effort. This bill seeks to enhance legislation we already have on the books to provide our state and local law enforcement agencies the tools they need to enable them to intervene against those who plan, finance and assist others who commit acts of terrorism before they occur.”
The bill is modeled after the federal Material Support law which has been upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional. The three key provisions in the legislation include:
1.) Gives the Attorney General the authority to “designate” a “Sharia organization” under specific guidelines defined in the bill, including intent to engage in Sharia jihad through violent or criminal activity. Also provides a procedure to ensure proper notice is given for the designation to be challenged.
2.) Defines what constitutes material support to stop the flow of resources funding acts of terror. Provides that those who knowingly provide material support or resources to a designated organization may be prosecuted and subject to a fine or prison sentence of up to 15 years.
3.) Provides a civil cause of action against terrorists if an individual is injured or suffers property or financial damages as a result of the terrorist’s act.
“Tennessee, like the federal government, has a compelling state interest to protect our citizens from jihad terrorism,” added Representative Matheny. “The incidence of homegrown terrorism is rising and our local and state law enforcement officers are on the frontlines in preventing such attacks. Tennessee’s current law addresses terrorism after the fact. This legislation aims to prevent acts of terrorism before they occur.”
Open source reporting shows that between 2001 – 2008, there were one or two terror attempts per year. That number jumped in 2009 – January 2011 to one or two cases uncovered nationally per month. The lawmakers said the bill protects the right of political speech and the right of citizens to practice freedom of religion.
“This bill does not interfere with the constitutionally protected rights of those who practice Sharia religious law,” added Senator Ketron. “This is not about religious rights or about those who practice Islamic beliefs. It’s about protecting our citizens from acts of terrorism that come from Sharia jihad which is a growing threat in all our states.”