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Freedom of Religion? Not if You are a Practicing Muslim and Live in Newark, New Jersey

By: Marcia Leach

Blog Category: Religion & Race

Hassan v. City of New York, filed on June 6, 2012 in federal court in New Jersey, was brought on behalf of several New Jersey plaintiffs who were targeted and surveilled by the New York Police Department (NYPD) solely because of their religious affiliation.  Among the eleven Plaintiffs are a decorated Iraq war veteran, current and former Rutgers University students, the parent organization of the Muslim Student Associations of Rutgers University (Newark and New Brunswick campuses), a coalition of New Jersey mosques, and the owners and proprietors of a grade-school for Muslim girls.  The plaintiffs share just one characteristic: their Muslim affiliation.  That fact alone led the NYPD to target and surveil them in clear violation of U.S. constitutional principles.

On Febuary 20, 2014, U.S. District Judge William Martini held that plaintiffs in Hassan v. City of New York lacked standing because they alleged no injury in fact, which “requires more than a subjective chill, and even if the plaintiffs had met that element, they had not shown causation.”  Martini found that the stigma, career damage and other harms alleged did not flow from the surveillance itself but from the Associated Press’s unauthorized disclosure of the spying program.  Further, Martini held, the plaintiffs failed to state a religious discrimination claim because “the more likely explanation for the surveillance was a desire to locate budding terrorist conspiracies.”

Martini reasoned that because the Sept. 11 attacks were perpetrated by 19 Muslims, who were members of al Qaeda “[t]he police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.  While this surveillance Program may have had adverse effects upon the Muslim community after the Associated Press published its articles; the motive for the Program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims.”  Additionally, Martini pointed to the fact that the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office announced in May 2012 that a fact-finding review of intelligence-gathering in New Jersey by New York police revealed no evidence that it broke any of the state’s civil or criminal laws.

The New Jersey Muslims will continue to fight for the right of Religious Freedom by appealing the dismissal of their federal court suit.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

Source:

Hassan v. City of New York, 2014 WL 654604 (D.N.J. 2014).
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