US: All Officials Should Uphold Freedom of Religion

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US: All Officials Should Uphold Freedom of Religion

Proposed Muslim Centers and Mosques Should Not Be Blocked by Bias

NEW YORK - Decisions by state and local officials in several US states to uphold
the building of mosques and Muslim community centers despite protests
is an important affirmation of the right to freedom of religion
enshrined in international human rights law as well as the US
Constitution, Human Rights Watch said today. Such projects are going
forward in at least five states.

“New York City and several other local governments have shown real
leadership on this issue that should be adopted broadly,” said Alison
Parker, US program director at Human Rights Watch. “Governments at all
levels need to respect the right to freedom of religion.”

The right to freedom of religion is protected under the US
Constitution and also under international treaties to which the United
States is a party. The International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, which the US ratified in 1992, requires all government entities
at the national and local level to uphold its provisions. The treaty
states that everyone has the right to religious beliefs, and the
freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public
or private, to manifest those beliefs in worship, observance, practice,
and teaching.

Proposals for new construction or expansion of mosques and Muslim
community centers in California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New York,
Tennessee, and Wisconsin have all undergone government land use reviews.
Most have already been approved, with the exception of a proposed
mosque in Chicago, Illinois, which was denied on grounds that a
tax-exempt house of worship on a commercial site would deny the city tax
revenue. The US government has begun investigating alleged acts of
arson on August 29, 2010, at the construction site of a mosque expansion
project in Tennessee.

International law, while protecting the right to freedom of religion,
also protects the rights to freedom of peaceful expression and protest.

“It is important for government officials to come to the defense of
individuals whose efforts to practice their faith come under attack,”
Parker said. “Acts of hatred and intolerance directed against Muslims in
the United States show the need for a more concerted effort by
government officials to address religious intolerance in their
communities.”

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