Lantos Foundation Condemns Calls to Exclude Muslims from travelling to the United States

As a human rights organization dedicated to the advancement of our nation’s most profound values of religious freedom, equality, and justice, The Lantos Foundation feels compelled to address a proposal that has been announced by a candidate for President to temporarily ban all Muslims from travelling to the United States. It should be self-evident that any such proposal is not only inimical to our collective values, but also to the Constitution of the United States. Whether it is our 1st Amendment's protection of religious freedom, the 5th Amendment’s guarantee of due process, or the 14th Amendment's promise of equal protection of the laws, the heart of our Constitution is the fair and equal treatment of all people, not only US citizens. A religious litmus test for admission to our country invokes memories of totalitarian regimes, from Nazi Germany to Soviet Russia, and we believe those sorry examples are ones that all decent people should be loath to emulate.

However, our concerns run beyond the many legal objections to an unconstitutional and unworkable immigration proposal. We are disturbed at the impact that such rhetoric has on the fabric of our society domestically and on the perception of our nation abroad. For billions of people around the world, the United States of America has stood for the robust defense of human rights, justice, and religious freedom. It has been the strength and credibility of our values that has been our greatest asset as we strive to build a more decent and humane world for all people. Any plan to target a specific community based on their religious identity is deeply offensive and would start our nation down a slippery slope that leads to a very dark place. No-one understood this better than the late Congressman Tom Lantos. As the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the United States Congress, Tom Lantos experienced, in the most horrific way, what can happen when one group of people is singled out for discrimination and exclusion.

We applaud the many voices from across the political spectrum, both in the United States and abroad, who have quickly denounced this outrageous plan, and we would hope that all those running for our nation’s highest office would take seriously the Constitutional oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

The Lantos Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization and as such we do not take positions on political candidates; however we do speak out on matters that impact our organization’s mission to advance the cause of fundamental human rights.  

Washington Times: Well-behaved women seldom make history, Three outspoken Muslims are honored for their courage

By Katrina Lantos-Swett - - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Heretic. Rabble-rouser. Criminal. These words have been used and abused to describe many remarkable figures throughout history. Voltaire, when he used his unparalleled pen to demand that the clerical hierarchy of his day truly evaluate itself. Martin Luther, when he set out to reform a faith that he had dedicated his life to. And Martin Luther King Jr., when he issued a prophetic call to his country to fully respect the rights of all of its citizens.

Next month, the Lantos Foundation will proudly honor three courageous women of Muslim heritage who have chosen to make history, joining the ranks of those whom time has vindicated as righteous and brave agents of change. Rebiya Kadeer, Irshad Manji and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are all cut from the same cloth as these towering figures of an earlier time. They, too, have been vilified, but we strongly believe these women will go down in history as bold leaders, audacious reformers and righteous rebels. As has been widely observed, well-behaved women seldom make history.

Read more

Lantos Foundation Defends the American Tradition of No Religious Test for Office

The Lantos foundation is non-profit non-partisan organization and as such does not take positions on political candidates. However, as a human rights organization that seeks to advance the robust protection of freedom of religion, conscience, and belief, we feel it is important for us to speak out on the recent discussion of whether or not a Muslim American should hold the office of President of the United States. 

In many ways religious freedom is the well spring from which many of our other cherished human rights flow. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association –all of these hinge upon a rights frame work that honors and upholds the fundamental right of freedom of religion. The framers of our constitution understood the importance of protecting the right of all citizens of whatever faith or belief to participate fully and equally in the life of our society. Not only is this belief enshrined in the first amendment to the Bill of Rights, but equally importantly it is spelled out in Article V Paragraph 3 of the Constitution. There it states with utter clarity that, “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” 

At the time of America’s founding, such forward thinking and visionary ideas about religious freedom and equality were rare.  The subsequent centuries have borne out the wisdom of our founders in establishing a Republic where the separation of church and state, the full and free exercise of religion, and the equality of all before the law is robustly defended. In many ways this historically unique American formulation has been the key to our remarkable success as a society, and we have seen it emulated in constitutional charters and human rights documents around the globe. Furthermore, we can see the disastrous consequences in the form of religious repression and persecution, brutal sectarian violence, and instability in societies that fail to provide strong protection for this fundamental human right.

That is why it was so distressing to hear comments suggesting that a faithful Muslim would not be welcome to serve as President of the United States. Not only do these comments reflect a profound misunderstanding of the US Constitution and our national traditions, but they represent an egregious slander against the Muslim faith and against millions of patriotic Muslim American citizens. This is unacceptable.

We encourage all those who would seek the highest office in the land to live by and defend our first freedom –the freedom of religion, conscience, and belief. Furthermore, we would hope that in their communications and indeed in their conduct that they would seek to reflect our nation’s most honored values of liberty, justice and equality for all.


Lantos Foundation Concerned that Hearings Target Muslim Americans

Organization continues work of Congress' only Holocaust Survivor

On Thursday, March 10, the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security will begin hearings on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response”. Extremism of all varieties is a legitimate concern to all Americans. Individuals obsessed with hatred of other groups pose a threat not only to the targets of that animosity, but also to the fabric of our society. Over the years we have witnessed tragic instances in which such bigotry has led to attacks on the basis of religion, race, national origin, political persuasion, sexual orientation, and the exercise of constitutional rights. A congressional inquiry into this broad recurring problem would have our wholehearted support.

But the proposed hearing is targeted at only a single group. That narrow focus suggests that extremism only warrants congressional attention if it occurs among Muslims. Comments made by the Committee Chairman who organized this hearing suggest that radicalization is running rampant among American Muslims as a group. If a committee chair proposed a hearing on "Disloyalty of Catholics," "Racial Hatred by Evangelical Christians," or "Jewish Bankers and the Financial Collapse," there would be widespread and vigorous condemnation.

We must remember that Muslim Americans are not our enemies. They are our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues, and our children's playmates. They are members of our armed services fighting for the rights and freedom of all Americans. They came to the United States for the same reason that we and our families came to these shores, seeking a better life in a nation where all faiths enjoy religious liberty. They are entitled to the same rights and dignity of all Americans, including the right to be judged on their own conduct, not on the basis of religious prejudices or based on the misdeeds, however heinous, of a handful of fanatics who adhere to a very different view of the Muslim faith.

While it is the constitutional right of any individual to espouse far-fetched sweeping generalizations about Muslims or any other group, Congress should be held to a higher standard. We are concerned that at a time when intolerance toward Muslims is already cause for concern, that our leaders not take actions that reinforce such intolerance. This hearing has the potential of conveying to the public the impression that American Muslims as a group are indeed a radical, disloyal, and dangerous sect. We would urge Chairman King as a member of the Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to conduct these hearings in a manner that will not lead to the demonization of millions of Americans based solely on their religious faith. Mr. King’s late colleague Congressman Tom Lantos was the only survivor of the Holocaust ever elected to Congress, and he knew from tragic personal experience the dangers that can result when society singles out a particular religious community for condemnation.

America is a nation founded and built in substantial measure by men and women fleeing religious persecution. Huguenots came here to avoid persecution in France. Catholics, Quakers, and Puritans sought to escape intolerance in England. Jews immigrated to avoid discrimination in many lands. Bahai fled abuse in Iran. We would betray the principles in which they believed, and the promise of religious liberty enshrined in the Bill of Rights, if we were we to permit on our own shores, the sort of invidious religious stereotypes that we know full well will incite religious intolerance. The next time a mosque is burned, or a Muslim is attacked, it will be too late to explain that no one actually intended fear of Muslims to get that out of hand.