Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you Senator Grassley and Senator Feinstein for hosting this wonderful event, and to the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council for inviting me to say a few words on behalf of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
This Council is a testament to the power of people of good faith and the singular greatness of our American system. The Council brings together two of the world’s most iconic and important religions. If you stop to think about it, there are few places on earth where this Council could even exist, let alone thrive. Yet here in America, we can proudly say that the Council represents the highest and noblest of our ideals: that people of diverse backgrounds, diverse histories, diverse heritages, diverse religions, and diverse political persuasions can come together in the common cause of strengthening our country and our communities.
We at the Civil Rights Division are honored by the critically important partnership we enjoy with the Council. Over the past year, the Council has made significant contributions to our effort to protect the civil rights of all Americans.
One of the most important issues facing the Council and the Civil Rights Division today is the scourge of hate crime. The Council is bringing unwavering focus and energy to this issue, and with good reason: anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish hate crimes have increased in the past few years. According to FBI crime statistics, anti-Muslim hate crimes roughly doubled from 2014 to 2016, and anti-Jewish hate crimes are the largest category of religiously-motivated hate crimes.
I am here today to deliver a simple message: in the fight against hate crimes, your Department of Justice stands with you. Combatting hate crime is, and will continue to be, one of the Department’s top priorities. Our goal is to eradicate hate crime from the country – and our commitment to that goal will never falter.
Hate crimes strike at our most basic American values. As Attorney General Sessions said just days ago, targeting people because of who they are or what they believe “target[s] the bedrock principles on which our nation was founded.”
This is especially true of religiously-motivated hate crimes. The freedom of religion is the first freedom that the Founding Fathers enshrined in the First Amendment. So when criminals target people because of their religion, they are targeting the bedrock of our Bill of Rights.
Hate crimes are also an especially pernicious form of crime because they are violent crimes. They terrorize not only victims and their families, but entire communities. They are attempts to deny our common humanity. And they are often perpetrated to deny people their basic and fundamental civil rights, such as the right to worship, the right to equal housing, and the right to equal employment.
Recently, we at the Department of Justice have been combatting religiously-motivated hate crimes wherever we find them.
- In November of last year, we obtained a 25-year sentence of a man who plotted to bomb a synagogue in Florida.
- On February 27 of this year, we obtained a guilty plea from a man who threatened to burn down a house that a Florida Muslim family had contracted to buy, in an attempt to disrupt the sale.
- This week we began a trial of three men accused of plotting to bomb a housing complex and attached mosque in Kansas.
- In April, we will begin the trial of a man accused of burning down another mosque, this one in Texas.
- And a few weeks ago, the Department announced a series of three indictments against the man who last year allegedly made the threats against Jewish Community Centers that created widespread fear and uncertainty all across the country and around the world.
We are proud of what we have accomplished, and we are proud of the fight we are waging against hate crime. But we recognize that much, much more remains to be done. We need the support of our communities and partners like the Council to achieve our common goal of eradicating hate crime. Join with us, and help us make the country more free, more fair, more open, more equal, and more just for all Americans. Thank you.