The ACLU of Tennessee says it ended up on a map of potential terrorist threats after it sent a letter to school superintendents asking them to be “inclusive” in their holiday celebrations.
The civil rights group says it found itself on the Tennessee Fusion Center’s map identified under the category “terrorism events and other suspicious activity,” with the explanation “ACLU cautions Tennessee schools about observing ‘one religious holiday.'”
“It is deeply disturbing that Tennessee’s fusion center is tracking First Amendment-protected activity,” Hedy Weinberg, executive director of ACLU-Tennessee, said in a statement. “Equating a group’s attempts to protect religious freedom in Tennessee with suspicious activity related to terrorism is outrageous. Religious freedom is a founding principle in our Constitution—not fodder for overzealous law enforcement.”
State fusion centers were set up after 9/11 to help states collect and share information on potential security threats. The ACLU has previously warned of “the potential dangers of fusion centers, including their ambiguous lines of authority, excessive secrecy, troubling private-sector and military roles and a bent toward collection of information about innocent activities and data mining.”
A fusion center spokesman told the Nashville City Paper that it was a mistake to have labeled the ACLU’s letter as a “terrorist” event and said the tag on the map should have been labeled “general information.”
But the City Paper found that the ACLU icon had instead been reclassified as “general terrorism news.”
“You can argue that you don’t like the word terrorism in there, but it’s just general news that’s provided,” fusion center spokesman Mike Browning responded to City Paper. “That’s the general news category. It doesn’t have anything to do with terrorism. It was just provided to schools as general information.”
“After the City Paper pointed out to Browning that the entire map was labeled ‘terrorism events and other suspicious activity’ on the website, that was changed to ‘open source news reports,'” the paper reported.
As of Thursday evening, the icon identifying the ACLU appeared to have been removed from the map altogether.
According to the ACLU, the controversy started after the group received “numerous” complaints from families around Tennessee complaining of overtly religious Christmas events in public schools.
The group responded with a letter to school superintendents arguing that “while public schools can teach about religion and religious holidays, public schools may not engage in indoctrination.”
The letter went on to say that the ACLU “welcomes holiday celebrations that teach children about a variety of holidays. We believe, however, that holiday celebrations that focus primarily on one religious holiday can result in indoctrination as well as a sense within students who do not share that religion of being outsiders to the school.”
The ACLU’s Wenberg told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that she’s taking the fusion center “at their word” that the terrorism designation was a mistake.
“I have not heard a good explanation for why school resource officers, who have a very important job in schools, would at all be interested or need to know about the letter we sent to local school superintendents about the need to keep holiday celebrations all inclusive,” she added.
WATCH: Climate activists chant ‘failure of leadership’ at Tom Perez after DNC votes against climate debate
Activists walked out of the Democratic National Committee's summer meeting in San Francisco after the organization voted against allowing a climate change debate during the 2020 primary.
DNC Chair Tom Perez imposed strict rules on the debates, which prevented a climate change debate from occurring. Climate activists had forced a vote, hoping to overrule the party boss.
"The Democratic Party needs the energy, motivation, and organizing capacity of young people to defeat Trump in 2020. But Tom Perez keeps shooting the party in the foot by rejecting that energy and turning it away," the Sunrise Movement said in a statement.
DNC votes against allowing a climate change debate amongst the 2020 hopefuls
Trump’s threat to ‘hereby’ force manufacturers to do his bidding stomped by legal analyst
President Donald Trump is claiming extraordinary powers in his escalating trade war with China.
On Friday, Trump demanded that American companies look for alternatives to China.
"Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies home and making your products in the USA," Trump tweeted.
Of course, the president has no power to order such a thing.
Trump then announced massive tariffs on China, citing the Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977.