Last week, the notorious anti-Muslim grassroots organization convened in Washington, D.C., for its national conference. The event brought together the group’s chapter leaders and members from across the nation, as well as representatives from ACT!’s international chapters including Austria and Canada. The event spanned three days and provided members the opportunity to engage in everything from interacting with members of Congress to being briefed about strategies ACT! hopes to execute in the coming year.
The conference concluded with ACT! intertwining its anti-Muslim message with a ceremony at the Pentagon, supposedly honoring those killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
If you missed this year’s conference, below is Part Two of a recap, highlighting the group’s honorees and its plans to support anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim legislation in the year ahead. Yesterday’s Part One recaps the scaremongering remarks from the group’s leader, Brigitte Gabriel, and disgraced former FBI agent John Guandolo.
Honoring legislators on Capitol Hill
ACT! for America conducted a “legislative briefing” on Capitol Hill where the group honored lawmakers working to pass legislation aimed at disparaging both immigrants and Muslims.
Similar to previous years, the group honored a number of far-Right members of Congress responsible for introducing and sponsoring bills steeped in nativism and Islamophobia. ACT!’s honorees included Reps. Louie Gohmert, Marsha Blackburn, Trent Franks, Michele Bachmann, and Sen. Ted Cruz.
Gabriel, who facilitated the ceremony, lauded each representative and their role in striving to pass legislation her organization deems as “high priority.”
ACT! also honored numerous state legislators who worked on behalf of the group to pass legislation at the state level. This included bills that reflect the ACT!’s anti-Muslim paranoia, including the unnecessary model legislation American Laws for American Courts (ALAC), which aims to ban any reference to Shariah law in U.S. courts. Those honored included Tennessee Sen. Bill Ketron, Louisiana Rep. Cameron Henry, South Dakota Sen. Dan Lederman, Kansas Rep. Peggy Mast, and North Carolina Rep. Chris Whitmire.
To further underscore Ketron, Mast, and Whitmire’s close ties to ACT!, it should be noted they were also present at other panels and discussion throughout the conference and were continuously lauded by ACT!’s staff for their tenacity in working on behalf of the group.
It seems no legislator has done more to further ACT!’s agenda in Tennessee than Bill Ketron.
In 2011, Ketron proposed an extreme anti-Muslim bill, authored by ALAC mastermind David Yersuhalmi, which would have jailed anyone who follows Shariah law. Ketron also withdrew support for a bill providing vouchers to private schools out of fear Islamic schools could also benefit from them.
Preview of future ACT!-affiliated legislation
American Laws for American Courts
Mobilizing grassroots and lobbying efforts to pass legislation at the state level aimed remains one of ACT!’s main goals. During the conference, ACT! staffer Christopher Holton outlined the bills the group aims to pass in upcoming electoral sessions. For starters, the group plans to continue to push for ALAC bills in all 50 states. Eight states have already passed some variation of anti-Shariah legislation, with the most recent being Florida.
While Holton is a proponent of passing ALAC laws, he also remarked there is no all-encompassing bill to completely ban Shariah because, to ACT!’s dismay, the practice of Islam, like any religion, is protected by the First Amendment. Instead, he revealed that the group intends to lobby lawmakers to introduce “a sweep of laws” aimed at further purporting Islam and Shariah in a negative light.
Feigning interest in women’s rights
ACT! for America plans to introduce state-level legislation to ban female genital mutilation. Of course, it’s clear ACT! is more interested in banning this practice as a means to vilify Muslims rather than legitimate concerns over women’s health. This was evident by Holton claiming their aim was to frame the practice as a religious tradition “grounded in Shariah” that needs to be outlawed.
Free Speech Laws
Holton also revealed plans to pass other controversial bills such as the “Free Speech Defense” act, a bill that plays into the paranoia that Muslim organizations outside of the U.S. aim to stifle free speech. In 2013, ACT! for America marked the anniversary of the U.S. Bill of Rights with “Freedom of Speech Day.” On this day, ACT! chapters across the country hosted coordinated events to decry the perceived encroachment of their free speech rights, all while exercising said rights to denigrate and dehumanize Muslims.
ACT! will also aim to pass statewide counter-terrorism legislation often referred to as “Andy’s Law.” The law may seem honorable, however Holton claimed this bill is simply a way to go after mosques and Muslim Student Association chapters, which ACT! repeatedly accuses of being fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood and responsible for radicalizing and providing support for terrorists.
Attacking Islamic schools
ACT! also aims to take on Islamic charter schools and limit H1B-Visas that they say bring in “all male” Muslim teachers from other countries to teach an “all male” student base. Holton claimed ACT! has drafted model legislation that forces these charter schools who utilize H1B-Visas to adhere to “affirmative action,” thus diversifying its staff. The bill is expected to be called “American Teachers for American Schools.”
With few exceptions, the conference proved to just more of the same from what has become to be expected from ACT!. It revealed the group is committed as ever at fomenting fear of Muslim communities as well as to injecting its bigoted agenda into our political system. Thus, another ACT! conference has come and gone, but nothing has changed.