US Attorney Warns of Prosecution for Religious Intolerance

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Friday, 31 May 2013 01:35 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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Internet postings that violate civil rights — such as insults and accusations against Muslims on Facebook — are subject to federal jurisdiction and possible prosecution, according to Bill Killian, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Killian told the Tullahoma News that it is important the public have an increased awareness about the use of social media as it relates to making comments that could tread on thin legal ice.

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"We want to inform everybody about what the law is, but more importantly, we want to provide what the law means to Muslims, Hindus, and every other religion in the country," Killian said.

He described one incident in which a Facebook comment posted made by a Tennessee county commissioner showed a photo of a man pointing a double-barreled shotgun at the camera lens, along with a caption reading, "How to Wink at a Muslim."

"If a Muslim had posted 'How to Wink at a Christian,' could you imagine what would have happened?" Killian told the newspaper.

"We need to educate people about Muslims and their civil rights, and as long as we're here, they're going to be protected."

He said he had had a conversation about the posting with the official involved.

Killian will discuss civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion at an event sponsored by the American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee next week.

He told the newspaper one focus of the event will be to clarify how terrorist acts, some of which have been committed by Muslims, are no different from those carried out by members of other religions.

He noted, for example, that Timothy McVeigh, the American terrorist responsible for the deadly 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people, and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols, were both Christians, as was Wade Michael Page, who killed six at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin last year.

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