ACLU Urges Federal Court to Lift Ban Blocking Muslim Scholar from United States
Academic Groups Say Government is Censoring Ideas at the
NEW YORK -- The
American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union today
urged a federal judge to lift the ban that prevents Professor Tariq Ramadan from
entering the United States.
The groups said the government is using a Patriot Act clause known as the "ideological exclusion" provision to deny a nonimmigrant visa to Ramadan, a Swiss citizen who now teaches at the University of Oxford in England.
"The immigration laws should not be used as instruments of censorship," said ACLU staff attorney Jameel Jaffer, who is lead counsel in this case. "The State Department should not be deciding which ideas Americans hear and which they do not."
The ACLU and NYCLU are seeking a preliminary ruling prohibiting the government from barring entry to Ramadan based on the ideological exclusion provision, which authorizes the exclusion of foreigners who, in the government's view, have "endorsed or espoused terrorism." Ramadan has repeatedly condemned terrorism in his public and written statements. The ACLU believes government officials are censoring Ramadan because he is a vocal critic of American policy in the Middle East.
Unless the court intervenes, Ramadan will be unable to speak at upcoming events organized by the ACLU's clients, the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and PEN American Center. The groups say that the government's exclusion of Ramadan violates their First Amendment right to hear constitutionally protected speech.
"The government does not have the authority to exclude Professor Ramadan and other invited scholars from the country because it disagrees with their political viewpoints," said Melissa Goodman, an attorney with the ACLU. "This kind of censorship is not only illegal, it harms academic debate and inquiry within the United States."
The lawsuit was brought against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The case is before Judge Paul A. Crotty of the Southern District of New York. In addition to Jaffer and Goodman, attorneys in the case are Judy Rabinovitz and Lucas Guttentag of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project; Arthur N. Eisenberg of the NYCLU; and New York immigration lawyer Claudia Slovinsky.
Background and briefs on the case are online at: www.aclu.org/exclusion