(Yikes! Coffman still hasn’t gotten the message that he’s not in Tom Tancredo’s old district anymore, has he? – promoted by Colorado Pols)
Talk-radio host Michael Brown, of Heck’ve-a-job Brownie fame, felt no need whatsoever to challenge Rep. Mike Coffman Tues. as Coffman explained to Brown that America should have an “active counter-intelligence effort, to make sure that our [military] ranks are not infiltrated by those sympathetic to radical Islam.”
Coffman told Brown, who was filling in for Mike Rosen on KOA, that the United States has “got to do a vetting of people, a counter-intelligence, the same that we did during the Cold War and an acknowledgement that we are at war today with an ideology, and it’s cloaked in a religion called radical Islam.”
“We need that same mentality today, to have that active counter-intelligence effort, to make sure that our ranks are not infiltrated by those sympathetic to radical Islam, like Major Hasan [Fort Hood], like Private First Class Abdo. And I think that is very important. And I think that it would also help Muslim Americans who are serving, because then those soldiers, Marines, and airmen, serving alongside of them would understand that they have been vetted and that they can be trusted,” Coffman told Brown.
I had a inkling that vetting members of the armed forces, based on their religious affiliation, didn’t sound kosher in terms of the U.S. Constitution. Criminal activities I can see, but religious?
So I did what Brownie should have done, and I asked the ACLU of Colorado what it thought:
“Everyone is free to worship in this country as they choose,” Rosemary Harris Lytle, Communications Director of the ACLU of Colorado, emailed me when asked to respond to Coffman’s statement. “We also have the freedom to not choose any religion. Regardless, Article 6 of the Constitution says: ‘No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States’ — and the ACLU of Colorado would argue that this would extend to military personnel. Religious freedom is one of America’s most fundamental liberties, and a central principle upon which our nation was founded. Unfortunately, though, throughout America’s history, almost every religious group has been the target of discrimination at one point or another. Tolerance and fairness have generally prevailed, but only after principled voices have transcended prejudice and hatred. We would hope that Rep. Coffman would hear those principled voices which echo not only fairness but the spirit and letter of the Constitution itself.”
I asked Brownie if he was concerned about the civil liberties of Muslims serving in the military.
“No,” Brownie emailed back. “America is at war with radical Islam and nothing in the Constitution would prohibit this kind of inquiry, any more than inquiries by the FBI, CIA, DoD, DoE, NSA or other departments and agencies through which I had TS/SCI clearances violated my Constitutional rights by making inquiries regarding activities which would have precluded me from receiving those clearances…. all military personnel should be “vetted” similar to those who seek clearances. If they don’t meet a comparable standard they should not be permitted to serve in the military. Just as we have physical requirements we can Constitutionally impose counter-intelligence standards which could preclude someone, including a U.S. citizen, from serving in the military.”
Miguel Ali Hasan, the award-winning film maker who ran for State Treasurer in 2010 and has defended Muslims against bigoted attacks, pointed out via email:
“Of the 56 Muslim countries out there, 53 of them have worked as our allies, in sharing intelligence against Al-Qaida and/or arresting terrorists,” Hasan emailed me in response to my query. “Muslims, especially American Muslims, are our finest ally and weapon within the War On Terror. There are tens of thousands of American Muslims serving in our U.S. Armed Forces today, coupled with the plethora of Muslim countries that are helping us – help which didn’t come as a result of silly ‘affirmations,’ but through trust and cohesion. Congressman Coffman is terribly misguided if he is going to allow the actions of one lunatic (Nadel Hasan) tarnish America’s best weapon within the War On Terror.”
Coffman told Brown that vetting Muslims in the U.S. military would actually help develop trust in the military and help Muslims from becoming “radicalized.”
“And also it would prevent Muslim Americans from becoming radicalized once they are in the military because of the fact that they would be trusted because they have been vetted…. I served in ground combat units in both the United States Army and Marine Corps. And those relationships between the soldiers and Marines on the ground is basically developing an interdependent bond and trust. And if that trust isn’t there, my concern is that, if you have Muslim-American soldiers and Marines, that they are going to be alienated by virtue of the fact that they are not vetted under the current system, and there rises questions about trust. And that could lead to alienation of those soldiers and Marines. And through that there could be an attraction to becoming radicalized.”
I asked Brownie why he didn’t challenge Coffman on this extreme proposal.
“I’m wondering why you call it an “extreme” proposal,” he responded. “It is not extreme, it is practical and reasonable under the circumstances.”
Coffman told Brownie he had nothing against Muslims.
“I am not against Muslim Americans,” Coffman said. “Let me tell you. I served in Iraq with the United States Marine Corps and Muslim Americans served in the military and served with distinction there and were important to our war effort.”
Back in November of last year, Coffman went further, stating on KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman show that Muslims in the U.S. military “would welcome being vetted so that their fellow soldiers knew, and Marines knew on the ground, that they had no sympathies to radical Islam.” [Listen to the audio here.]
And guess what. Coffman walked away from that radio show, too, unruffled, as if he had said something that was completely in step with the core American value of religious freedom.
Coffman on KOA’s Mike Rosen Show Dec. 13, 2011:
Coffman on KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman Show Nov. 24, 2010: