Tennessee lawmaker under heat for distributing anti-Muslim DVD

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SHAFAQNA – A Tennessee Republican lawmaker is taking flak from an advocacy organization and fellow legislators after distributing a DVD centering on Muslims in America.

Last week, Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, sent her colleagues a documentary entitled “America’s Mosques Exposed!”

The film includes a summary that states, “Chilling and urgent insider video catches treason in the act against God and Country by Muslims using American Mosques as war factories and by our own U.S. Government, burning Bibles as trash yet ordering Muslim Qurans to be ‘handled like a delicate piece of art.’ ”

The film, produced and narrated by Louie E. Johnston Jr., who runs the website PatriotPastors.net, also suggests that the country’s Muslims are “fundraising for Terrorists.”

On Tuesday Paul Galloway, executive director of the American Center for Outreach, along with House Democrats took issue with Lynn handing out the film.

“It’s really irresponsible, election-year politicking,” he said, noting that Lynn has a history of targeting members of the Muslim community.

Galloway and his organization, which describes itself as one that promotes religious liberty and faith-based social justice through advocacy and issue-based coalitions, questioned a bill Lynn sponsored last year, which sought to break up “no-go zones.”

Lynn’s bill defined such zones as “a contiguous geographical area consisting of public space or privately owned public space where community organizing efforts systematically intimidate or exclude the general public or public workers from entering or being present within the area.”

Galloway called the legislation anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim — something that Lynn refuted.

Galloway said Lynn’s distribution of the DVD, which he said contained questionable and objectionable content, is another form of “fear mongering” against Muslims.

“It’s a broad, sweeping indictment of an entire faith,” he said.

But Lynn disagrees.

“I didn’t see anything objectionable in it (the DVD),” she told The Tennessean on Tuesday, adding that she specifically talked to the House Clerk about following the proper procedure for handing out materials to lawmakers. “Anything in the video you can see on YouTube every day of the week.”

Calling it a freedom of speech issue, Lynn said the central aspect of the film focused on Islam as a “political philosophy and not a religion.”

Galloway said it was “cowardly” for Lynn to hide behind the First Amendment.

“When you target one faith community, you’re threatening everybody’s faith community and that works against everyone,” he said, adding that elected officials are held to higher standards.

Galloway’s organization plans to distribute another DVD, entitled “American Muslims: Facts vs. Fiction,” to lawmakers later this week.

Galloway was not alone in criticizing Lynn, as House Democrats on Tuesday announced they formally filed a workplace harassment complaint with Connie Ridley, the state’s head of legislative human resources.

“Any Muslim working in this building or in the state legislature would necessarily feel discriminated against and feel like they are working in a hostile working environment,” said Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, in a lunchtime press conference.

Clemmons cited the state’s policies, which include protections for all employees from any form of discrimination.

Reps. Johnnie Turner, and Barbara Cooper, both Memphis Democrats, said they were particularly offended by Lynn’s actions because they remembered the discrimination that African-Americans faced in the 1960s.

“This type of hate-filled propaganda and the depictions contained thereon are direct threats to the peacefulness of our community and the integrity of our state,” the three Democrats said in the complaint they sent to Ridley, as well as House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. The lawmakers asked Ridley to “take immediate action to remedy this situation and hold those responsible accountable.”

Lynn dismissed Democrats’ concerns, saying it is “just a matter of taste,” while again reiterating the issue is centered around the First Amendment.

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