[Updated July 2017]
In the wake of the 2015 attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, anti-Muslim sentiment has spiked. Although these sentiments manifest themselves in many ways, attacks on mosques directly take aim at religious freedom. Existing and proposed mosque sites across the country have been targeted for vandalism and other criminal acts, and there have been efforts to block or deny necessary zoning permits for the construction and expansion of other facilities.
Below is a map highlighting anti-mosque incidents across the country since 2005.
While mosque opponents frequently claim their objections are based on practical considerations such as traffic, parking, and noise levels, those asserted concerns are often pretexts masking anti-Muslim sentiment. Government officials in some areas of the country have yielded to this religious bigotry, treating mosques and Islamic centers differently than other proposed houses of worship and/or denying zoning permits without the compelling interest that is required by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (a federal civil rights law that affords heightened legal protection to the use of property for religious purposes). Even where local governments strongly support religious freedom, private citizens nevertheless often seek to intimidate Muslims into forgoing the exercise of this freedom.
The Constitution guarantees the right of private citizens to protest, and the ACLU would vigorously defend that right if infringed by the government. But making Muslims – or any other religious group – feel unwelcome in local communities conflicts with our Founders’ vision of religious liberty and tolerance. Protests that cross the line into violence and other criminal acts are, of course, not protected by law and are indefensible.