Congressmen seek to investigate rights at Phoenix mosque rally
PHOENIX — Two congressmen have turned to the Obama administration for help in investigating whether any First Amendment rights were violated during a Phoenix protest last Friday, the Huffington Post reported.
Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and André Carson (D-Ind.) sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Thursday, asking that an investigation be opened on whether the anti-Muslim protest held outside a Phoenix mosque violated the worshipers’ freedom to practice religion.
Protesters were encouraged by organizer Jon Ritzheimer to bring weapons in order to “utilize there (sic) second amendment right at this event just incase our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack,” according to a now-deleted Facebook post.
Ellison and Carson’s letter reads, “The decision to bring assault weapons to the mosque demonstrates intent to create a hostile environment to intimidate worshipers, a clear attempt to infringe on the First Amendment rights of the worshipers.”
The congressmen argued that the armed protests could be in violation of the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. The law “‘attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person lawfully exercising or seeking to exercise the First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship.'”
The letter also said that “armed protesters intimidating worshipers at churches, synagogues, mosques, or any religious place of worship seems to be exactly the behavior that Congress sought to outlaw when it passed the FACE Act. Enforcement of the law should not vary based on the religious affiliation of those being intimidated.”
The protest brought hundreds of supporters and counter-protesters to the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, a mosque that was once frequented by two men who opened fire at a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas.
The protest and related counterprotest ended after several hours. No arrests were made.