WASHINGTON – Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly struck down a controversial proposal that would have required the Department of Defense to conduct “strategic assessments” of the use of Islamic religious doctrines that could be used to recruit Islamic terrorists.
The amendment, offered by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), was narrowly defeated by a vote of 217-208, removing the proposal from the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). All but one of Minnesota’s representatives voted against the amendment.
The amendment asked Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to conduct “strategic assessments of the use of violent or unorthodox Islamic religious doctrine to support extremist or terrorist messaging and justification.”
Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, was vocal in his opposition to the amendment, calling it an attempt to “constitutionally impermissible.”
“Rep. Franks’ NDAA amendment ordering a ‘strategic assessment’ on Islam goes against everything we strive to be,” Ellison said in a statement. “By ordering the Department of Defense to scrutinize a single religion, identify leaders for some unknown purpose, and determine an acceptable way to practice, Congress is ‘abridging the free exercise of religion,’ which is constitutionally impermissible.”
During a debate on the House floor, Ellison said the amendment “singled out one religious group” and urged his colleagues to vote against it.
Republican members of Minnesota’s delegation Reps. Erik Paulsen and Jason Lewis joined Ellison and the other Minnesota DFLers in voting down the amendment. Republican Rep. Tom Emmer was the sole representative from Minnesota to vote in favor of the proposal. Emmer defended his vote, saying he will continue to work to “combat radical extremism.”
“The safety and security of the American people is paramount,” Emmer said, according to the Star Tribune. “I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress, defense officials at the Pentagon, and religious leaders from all faiths to better understand and combat radical extremism around the globe to keep our country safe.”
Watch Ellison’s brief statements on the House floor here.