Political pandering at DOJ? Case of Muslim math teacher puts spotlight on government lawyer

Following outrage over a Department of Justice decision to sue a local school district for denying a Muslim math teacher 19 days off to go on the Hajj (or religious pilgrimage to Mecca), critics are pointing to a statement the lead attorney on the case made as proof of political motivation.

Assistant attorney general for Civil Rights Thomas Perez said the division was pursuing the case in order to address “a real head wind of intolerance against Muslim communities,” and protect “the religious liberty that our forefathers came to this country for.”

The district has denied any such bigotry, explaining that its refusal to accommodate her request was purely due to the extended time period and the fact that the time she requested would have resulted in undue hardship for her students.

“The school district just wanted a teacher in the room for those three weeks,” said the town’s former mayor Michael A. Esposito. “They didn’t care if she was a Martian, a Muslim, or a Catholic.”

Todd Gaziano, U.S. Civil Rights Commission member told The Daily Caller that Perez’s statement about the district having an anti-Muslim bias was “troubling.”

“The suit can only serve that purpose if the school board’s action was motivated by intolerance against Muslims, but DOJ has provided no evidence of that,” Gaziano said. “To publicly defame school board officials as religious bigots without any evidence is a serious abuse and leads credence to the allegation that DOJ’s suit was brought merely to pander to a particular political constituency.”

Hans von Spakovsky, former counsel to the assistant attorney general for Civil Rights, told TheDC that such comments have been common for lead attorney Perez.

“This is typical of the way Perez operates which is to make these kind of unsubstantiated extreme statements which is essentially engaging in religious demagoguery,” Spakovsky said. “It is just the way they operate and is just extremely unfair to this school district.”

Even without Perez’s comments about potential bigotry within the district, the Justice Department is receiving sustained criticism is for its decision to pursue the case, which has no precedent.

“[H]ere is a case where the DOJ is seeking a religious accommodation (three weeks) that has never been sought before. No court has ever allowed a 19 day leave for a religious accommodation,” former Civil Rights attorney J. Christian Adams told TheDC. “What about the ‘facts and law’ in this case? Everyone knows the answer — it’s pure politics. Holder pushes the boundaries of the law to protect a favored political constituency, Muslims, while placing a thumb on the scale of justice in the other direction to justify the dismissal of a case against black panthers that abandons law abiding white victims. It is rank biased rot.”

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