In the changed climate of today's America, we have seen how too often the issue of a person's religion has become a target of and for discrimination and outright abuse.
We hold the truth of America, that a person's religion as with race, gender, and other characteristics, is never grounds for discrimination. Yet it happens these days with frightening regularity.
When the son of the late boxer Muhammad Ali, also named Muhammad Ali, flew into the Ft. Lauderdale airport in Florida, he and his mother were detained by immigration even though Ali is an American born citizen. He and his mother were separated and questioned for two hours after the ICE agent asked Ali, "What is your religion?" and Ali replied that he is Muslim.
It has become powerfully clear that religion is now a full-blown test for entry into this country, never mind citizenship and American passports, never mind declarations that the screening is not about religion. If this can happen to an American citizen, it will be only worse for those who are refugees, who hold green cards, visas, work permits, or are just tourists.
This religious profiling cannot be allowed to occur. We must not be complicit in such civil rights violations.
California will not engage in this kind of profiling. To that end, Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) has introduced an urgency bill, SB 31, that will prohibit "a state or local agency or a public employee acting under color of law" from providing or disclosing to the federal government personal information regarding a person's religious beliefs and practices.
The bill will require a 2/3 vote since it is intended to take effect immediately upon passage. At the moment, it is to be heard March 6 in Senate Appropriations where it strongly needs your support.
Please contact Senator Lara who is both the author and the chair of Appropriations. His status as chair does NOT guarantee smooth passage from Appropriations, so this is needed. His phone number at the Capitol is 916-651-4033.
The Appropriations staff person handling the bill is Mark McKenzie to whom you may send emails. His email address is Mark.McKenzie@sen.ca.gov. Appropriations does not have a FAX number, and a phone call to McKenzie is less likely to get answered while an email will be put into the file.
We strongly support this action. It is our moment to remember how targeting people by religion caused one history's most profound horrors in the Holocaust. Using people's religion to discriminate against them is outrageously un-American and a violation of our core faith principles of honoring all people.
Please let your voices be heard today - the bill will be heard March 6 and needs your strong support.