I’m particularly proud today to be a member of the board of directors and the executive committee of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Founded by Kevin “Seamus” Hasson in 1994, the Becket Fund is committed to defending the religious freedom rights of people of every faith, “from Anglicans to Zorastrians.” True to its mission and principles, the Fund is representing the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee in its efforts to build a new mosque to accommodate the growing community it serves.
Unfortunately, these efforts are being opposed by a small but very vocal group of non-Muslim residents who absurdly claim that Islam is not a religion, but is rather a sinister and dangerous political movement, and that therefore the rights of Muslims are not protected under the free exercise guarantee of the First Amendment. Yesterday Chief Judge Todd Campbell of the federal district court in Nashville granted the Becket Fund’s request for a temporary restraining order to make possible the completion of the building inspection for the new mosque so that the Muslim community can use the building for its observance of Ramadan, which begins tomorrow evening. Press release here.
Congratulations to Becket Fund General Counsel Luke Goodrich on this important victory for religious liberty. Congratulations, too, to the Becket Fund’s new president, William Mumma, who has stepped in to take the helm after Seamus stepped aside for health reasons, and to Executive Director Kristina Arriaga. And, while I’m at it, congratulations to Seamus, whose extraordinary work and witness were recognized a few weeks ago with an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame. (Perhaps it would not be out of place here to mention that the Becket Fund does not accept government financial support. It relies for its important work on the generosity of private charitable foundations, such the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the John M. Templeton Foundation, and individual donors.)