President Barack Obama’s top civil rights official repeatedly declined to support religious free speech during a July 27 congressional hearing, despite repeated questioning from Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks, who chairs the House’s constitution subcommittee.
Tom Perez, the progressive who runs the Justice Department’s civil rights office, refused to answer the questions posed by Franks.
“Will you tell us… that this administration’s Department of Justice will never entertain or advance a proposal that criminalizes speech against any religion?” Frank asked four times.
Perez refused to answer, saying “it is a hard question, in the sense that when you make threats against someone.” Perez then suggested he would respond to draft legislation from the committee, but again refused to answer Frank’s question about free speech rights.
Franks’ questions were prompted by an October 2011 Daily Caller report, which described a D.C. meeting between Perez and hardcore Islamists, including Mohamed Magid, the Sudan-born, Saudi-trained head of the Islamic Society of North America.
At the end of the public meeting, Perez called more meetings with the Islamists, even though he had watched while Magid called for legal punishment of people who criticize Islamic texts that call for violence against non-Muslims and for the subordination of women to men.
In 2009 a federal judge approved the FBI’s decision to describe the society as an co-conspirator of a group that was convicted of smuggling money to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’ affiliate in Palestine. Hamas has repeatedly funded, supported and endorsed attacks on Jews.
During the meeting, Perez also complimented the Islamists for lobbying against airline security measures.
Perez also listened while another Islamist called for the Justice Department to redefine religious free speech as illegal discrimination.
The department’s “civil rights lawyers are top of the line — I say this with utter honesty — I know they can come up with a way” to redefine criticism as discrimination, said Sahar Aziz, a female Egyptian-American lawyer who spoke at the event.
“I’d be willing to give a shot at it,” said Aziz, who spoke for the Institute for Social Policy & Understanding, a Michigan-based advocacy group.
“We must continue to have the open and honest and critical dialogue that you saw in the robust debate,” Perez said just a few minutes after Aziz made her demand for Saudi-style blasphemy laws.
As the meeting session ended, Perez — a Maryland resident, and a former staffer to Sen. Ted Kennedy — climbed the stage to embrace Magid.
When the event was over, Perez refused to answer questions from The Daily Caller.
Dwight Holton, another Justice Department official who spoke at the event, also refused to answer questions from TheDC. Holton even threatened to charge TheDC’s reporter with a crime for following him while asking questions.
Perez’s welcome mat for the Islamists may be part of an administration-wide effort to cultivate 2012 election support among Muslim lobbies, such as Magid’s ISNA.
Most of the immigrants’ lobby groups are Islamist, partly because few non-religious Muslim immigrants participate in Islamic advocacy.
Perez, who worked as a ethnic lobbyist and amnesty supporter in Maryland, is one of President Barack Obama’s most aggressive advocates.
For example, during a October meeting in Alabama intended to rally opponents to the state’s successful enforcement of immigration laws, Perez suggested that Alabama residents score lower on education tests than poorly educated immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
“State school performance may decline,” he said, because “some of the [illegal immigrant] kids who are leaving [the state] are some of the highest performing kids,” he told reporters.