Hatewatch

Traditional Values Coalition Jumps on Anti-Shariah Bandwagon

The Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), long listed as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its demonizing and false propaganda directed at LGBT people, is casting its net of hate even wider.

The organization has created a new grassroots campaign called “The Task Force to Stop Shariah Law in America.” According to one of the latest TVC fundraising letters, the group seeks to “ban Radical Islam's Shariah Law in every state in America.” Rev. Lou Sheldon, TVC's founder and chairman, claims in one of the enclosures in the fundraising packet that radical Islam is “subverting our Constitution” and will place “you and your family under Shariah Law.” Also in the packet is a “survey” asking if respondents are aware that the Shariah takeover plot is already in full swing.

All of this, of course, is utter nonsense – the Constitution, which has stood resolutely for 220 years, is in no danger of being supplanted by Shariah or any other type of religious or foreign law. But, the TVC says, you can still prevent the tragic demise of constitutional governance in America if you'll “make the best donation you can” to help raise over $3 million. The money will be used, the letter claims, to educate and mobilize Americans; launch a website to educate more people and raise more funds; train pastors and activists on how to confront the “Shariah threat”; and provide travel money enabling Andrea Lafferty, Lou Sheldon's daughter and president of TVC, “go to as many states as possible” to lobby against Shariah Law. Not a dime will be spent to explain to people that absolutely none of this is necessary because no “Shariah threat” exists.

This isn't the first time TVC has dipped its toe in the anti-Shariah/anti-Islam pool. In 2008, Sheldon reflected on the 9/11 terrorist attacks in an article posted on the TVC website, stating that “Islamists” want to destroy America and western civilization by “conquering nation after nation” and imposing Islamic (Shariah) law upon them.  In 2010, Lafferty expressed opposition to the planned Park51 mosque in Lower Manhattan, stating, “We cannot allow the standard for decision-making to become whether or not an action disappoints violent Muslim fanatics. We cannot give the homicide bombers a veto over the lives of free people.”

Like other TVC fundraising letters, the latest one is full of conspiracy theories and patently false claims, including the allegation that “Shariah Law trumps the Law of any land – including our own Constitution.” That’s not true, University of Washington professor of law Clark Lombardi, who is a specialist in Islamic law, told Hatewatch. No government in the United States can impose laws that violate the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Furthermore, he said, Shariah is not a fixed concept, with different variations utilized in Muslim-majority countries. “Highly repressive forms of Shariah that are trotted out [by anti-Shariah activists] as examples … are actually followed by the smallest number of Muslims around the world.” Most Muslims, he said, don't want to live under those extreme forms, either.

Nevertheless, TVC raises the specter of “judges who support Shariah,” and claims that newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan “believes in Shariah Law and has actively worked to advance it in the United States.” The idea that the Obama administration is promoting Shariah through judges sympathetic to it has been circulating throughout right-wing outlets for months. According to the TVC fundraising letter, Kagan “promoted an initiative called 'The Islamic Legal Studies Program’” while she was dean at Harvard Law School. The program, the TVC says, was funded with Saudi oil money.

That's not true, either. There is an Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard, but it was established in 1991, 12 years before Kagan became dean of the law school. Kagan was not even at Harvard in 1991. The “Saudi oil money” TVC is referring to may be the $20 million donation that a former president of Harvard, Larry Summers, accepted in 2005 from American-educated Saudi prince Alwaleed Bin Talal (known for his pro-American stances and investments). The money was to be used for the creation of a university-wide program in Islamic studies, including funding new senior faculty and digitizing Islamic documents in Harvard's possession to make them available online. Georgetown University also accepted a $20 million donation from the prince that same year, but TVC doesn't mention that in its letter, possibly because no jurist who is politically unpopular with the extreme right was on Georgetown's staff at the time.

A third outlandish claim the TVC letter makes is that the “Obama Department of Education” plans to spend “our taxpayer money for mandatory Arab and Islam classes in Texas public schools.” Once again, that's a highly exaggerated claim. The truth: A single school district, the Mansfield Independent School District located southeast of Fort Worth, received a Foreign Language Assistance Program grant from the Department of Education to implement special Arabic language classes in elementary and middle schools. These language grants were made possible under Title V of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act – legislation passed during the George W. Bush administration – because of the shortage of American speakers of “critical languages” including Arabic, Chinese and Russian. The district is currently working with parents in the implementation of classes, according to a press release available on its website, which also states, in bold face, There are no ‘mandatory Arabic classes’ as being falsely reported in the media.”

But facts never get in the way of a TVC fundraising letter.