The Republican sponsors of state legislation that critics have branded anti-Islam announced Tuesday they have removed all references to religion from the measure.
Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, said they will amend their bill to make it clear it is an “anti-terrorism bill aimed at curbing the incidence of homegrown terrorist acts in the state before they occur.” Their amendment “ensures an even-handed and non-discriminatory approach.”
“As amended, this bill has absolutely no references to any specific religion,” said Matheny, who is the House speaker pro tempore. “It is about protecting our citizens from those who would use religious doctrine as a justification to commit criminal activities or terrorist acts.”
A coalition of civil rights and faith-based groups had called on lawmakers to withdraw the measure, which they said would make it a crime to follow the Islamic code known as Sharia.
Gadeir Abbas, an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the legislation would make it illegal to donate to Muslim organizations or help paint a mosque.
Under the bill, the director of Tennessee’s Office of Homeland Security can recommend that the state attorney general designate a terrorist entity. Once the designation is made, it becomes a state crime to give money to the group.
“The amendment provides a powerful counterterrorism tool to state and local law enforcement, enabling them to act decisively before acts of terrorism are committed,” Matheny said. “We have to get it right every time; they only have to get it right once. So far, I have received positive feedback regarding the revised amendment from those in my community who were concerned about the bill.”