NYPD’s Muslim Surveillance Extended Well Beyond New York

Imam leads muslims in a sermon at Occupy Wall Street by Lev Radin/Shutterstock.

NEWARK, N.J. — The report was stamped top secret.

Inside was a confidential dossier compiled by the New York Police Department documenting "locations of concern" in Newark -- the city's 44 mosques, Muslim-owned restaurants and businesses and Islamic schools.

In 2007, the NYPD began an undercover spy operation within New Jersey's largest city to find and document where Muslims lived, worked and prayed.

Now, city officials and many of those targeted are voicing anger at the disclosures, which came in the wake of an Associated Press report showing that a secret NYPD surveillance program aimed at Muslims had extended well beyond New York City.

"I have deep concerns and I am very disturbed that this might have been surveillance that was based on no more than religious affiliation," Newark Mayor Cory Booker said.

FBI, Muslim Groups Report Progress in Training Materials

FBI officials say they are willing to consider a proposal from a coalition of Muslim and interfaith groups to establish a committee of experts to review materials used in FBI anti-terrorism training.

The coalition raised the idea during a Feb 8 meeting with FBI Director Robert Mueller, who met with the groups to discuss pamphlets, videos and other anti-terrorism training materials that critics say are either Islamophobic or factually incorrect.

"We're open to the idea, but they need to submit a proposal first," said Christopher Allen, an FBI spokesman who was in the meeting.

Groups at the meeting included the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Interfaith Alliance, and the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign.

U.K. Innkeepers Fined for Turning Away Gay Couple

No Room at the Inn. Image via Wylio,

No Room at the Inn. Image via Wylio,

LONDON — Britain's Court of Appeal has ordered a pair of Christian innkeepers to pay 3,600 pounds ($5,800) in damages to a gay couple that was told they could not share a room in the couple's guesthouse.

The three-judge panel rejected an appeal by the innkeepers, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, in their conviction of telling Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy they could not share a double room.

The court in London told the couple, who ran the Chymorvah House in Cornwall, England, to pay the penalty.

The Court Has Spoken. Now What?: Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC

"Stop the Intersection of Church and State." Image via

"Stop the Intersection of Church and State." Image via Wylio,

With its unanimous ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Church & School v. EEOC last month, the United States Supreme Court handed down one of its most important church-state decisions in decades. The First Amendment bars ministers from suing the religious communities they serve regarding the terms and conditions of their employment, it said.

The Court affirmed what lower courts had held for decades: Religious bodies, not the government, must have the power to decide which individuals will minister to the faithful. This doctrine is known as the “ministerial exception.” The Court also held that the former teacher in this case, Cheryl Perich, was a minister and thus her lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) could not proceed.

An important aspect of the Hosanna-Tabor ruling is the Court’s recognition that there is simply is no good way for the state to police these matters – it inevitably ends up intruding on core religious decisions like who should speak to and for the church. When a minister is fired, the religious employer cites a religious reason for doing so, such as sermons that are inconsistent with Biblical teachings and a failure to challenge congregants to follow Jesus Christ. If the minister then sues the church for discrimination, he or she claims the religious reason wasn’t the “real” reason for the church’s actions; it was just a pretext for discrimination.

GOP Nostalgia is a Symptom of Privilege

Atari gaming demo center, circa 1980. Image via wylio

Atari gaming demo center, circa 1980. Image via

Author Melissa Harris-Perry recently appeared on “The Colbert Report” to speak about her new book, Sister Citizen, which examines a number of stereotypes of African-American women. As he often does, Colbert teed up a common conservative talking point about “going back to he good old days.” Perry’s response kept ringing in my head for days afterward.

She said that there is no time in American history you would want to go back to as a black girl.

The point is simple but compelling. Those in the position of privilege to write history are the ones whose story is most prominently told. So when we talk about going back to some better time, it’s with the lens of that same privilege that we’re looking back.

The fact is that, unless you’re a white, Christian, straight male, there’s little to look back to and say, “Yeah, I was better off back then.”

Gypsy History, Culture and Gospel Community

Gyspy church. Image courtesy of Jeff Winkowski.

Gyspy church. Image courtesy of Jeff Winkowski.

When I was a kid my summer job was to sell Kool-Aid to people at my mom’s rummage sales, which she and her girlfriends held several times each summer. 

I remember overhearing one of mom’s customers complaining, saying something about being able to “Jew down” at our neighbor’s yard sale. I wasn’t sure why but I knew at age six that this kind of talk was very wrong and it was very offensive. Yet I would have thought nothing about hearing someone say that they got “gypped” at a rummage sale, car dealership, or a candy store. In fact it was not for another twelve years before I learned that Gypsies were a race of people with over 1,000,000 people in the US, and 10,000,000 in Europe, making them Europe’s largest ethnic minority.

Egypt's Coptic Christian Community Faces Harsh Persecution

Pope Shenouda III, the Coptic Christian pontiff, listens to President Obama deli

Pope Shenouda III, the Coptic Christian pontiff, listens to President Obama deliver a speech in Cairo, Egypt in 2009.

Just days before the country’s first democratic election (set for Nov. 28), 27 Coptic protestors were killed for demonstrating against the military’s recent burning of a Christian community center. And despite drawing global attention, which included anti-violence demonstrations in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, the Global Post reports that, "the demonstrations reflect mounting fears in Egypt’s Coptic community and its Diaspora that after the pro-democracy uprising of earlier this year the predominantly Muslim Egyptian society seems as indifferent to the Christian minority’s concerns as ever. “