AJC Tells Appeals Court Islamic Law Not Relevant to AIG Bailout

May 11, 2011 – New York – Observing that it is the best tradition of the United States to seek to accommodate citizens’ own religious practices, AJC told the U.S. Court of Appeals that there is no merit to an Establishment Clause challenge to the government’s bailout of insurance giant AIG.

AJC filed a brief in Murray v. U.S. Department of Treasury, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Detroit), expressing concern that the lawsuit is aimed at combating Islamic religious practices in the U.S.

Plaintiffs have alleged that federal bailout monies were used to subsidize AIG’s sale of Sharia-law compliant products. But the AJC brief stated that less than one-quarter of one percent of AIG business was in so-called “Sharia-compliant” products, designed to avoid the Islamic prohibition on interest. AJC expressed doubt that the government was even aware of these products.

“The principle invoked by those challenging the AIG bailout also would ban government provision of kosher food to prisoners which, after all, costs money, as do dozens of other permissible accommodations of private religious choice,” said Marc Stern, AJC Associate General Counsel. “The government’s role is not to encourage a particular religious view, but to respect the private religions of its citizens. AJC has stood on the side of defending precisely those rights since our first amicus brief in a 1923 U.S. Supreme Court case involving the right of Catholics to send their children to parochial schools – Pierce v. Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.”

In a similar vein, earlier this week AJC applauded the State of Indiana’s decision to honor a court decision requiring Indiana prisons to provide kosher food to observant Jewish inmates. AJC had filed an amicus brief in Maston Willis v. Commission, Indiana Department of Corrections in support of an Orthodox Jewish inmate who had been denied kosher food.

The Thomas Moore Law Center, representing the plaintiffs in the AIG case, has stated that it seeks to “stop Sharia law from rearing its ugly head in America.”

AJC’s Stern pointed out that it is “a perversion of the First Amendment’s religion clauses to invoke them for the express purpose of suppressing religion.”

The AJC brief was prepared by Andrew O. Bunn of the firm DLA Piper LLP (U.S.)

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