In his opening remarks during the second day of a White House summit on terrorism, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary Jeh Johnson spoke of the growing threat of terror and the need for the government to “give voice to the plight of Muslims.”

Johnson started his remarks with a joke about the winter weather, but his remarks only got chillier from there as he described the need for government to take a role in solving the supposed “plight” of Muslims.

While the argument can readily be made that Muslims in America face discrimination as a result of militarized groups of Muslims, like ISIS and al-Qaida, the real problem is having a tax-payer funded organization, like the DHS, focus efforts and resources on members of a single religion.

True, U.S. citizens need to be able to look past appearances and stereotypes and judge people based on their individual actions and behaviors. But to involve a government agency in that arbitration process is a supremely bad idea.

To begin with, what Johnson is proposing could be looked at as leading to actions violating the Constitution’s First Amendment. “Giving voice” is an active statement. It also holds the connotation that, once that voice has been heard, specific action will be taken—and we all know how effective the government is at taking action.

Those actions, however, could easily infringe upon the First Amendment injunction to “make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The Constitution doesn’t say you can’t make a law that is biased for a religion or biased against a religion. You can’t make a law regarding religion either way.

And that’s where Johnson is walking a fine line—the line between helping American’s realize that their Muslim neighbors aren’t terrorists, and giving Muslims undue representation because of their religion.

As an aside, Johnson said that his department was implementing a national program to meet with counterterrorism leaders and design a response that is “more than a military response.” He reiterated the agenda of these meetings and said that he’s been in “listening mode” for these conversations.

Listening mode? Seriously?

Mr. Johnson needs to realize that the threat of terrorism isn’t in “listening mode.” It’s in full-fledged, all-out combat mode. We need the government to do more than listen at this point. The time for listening has past. Now it’s time for action.

 

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