Foreign Funding of American Mosques
maule at LAW.VILLANOVA.EDU
Sun Oct 21 14:43:40 PDT 2001
To clarify things, I thought a freeze was a freeze on the foreign government taking out its money... thus leaving it in place to be used for reparations, payments of judicial judgments, etc. Generally, a foreign government under those circumstances would avoid putting money into the reach of the US government. In any event, that's a semantic issue, perhaps, because the issue is whether the US government can seize the assets of the foreign government.
I would think an attempt to reach only mosques would create all sorts of 1A problems. If, however, the action applied to all organizations, whether or not religious, and not to any one specific religion, then the question wouldn't implicate the 1A concerns as significantly.
Legally, I *think* that under a freeze (elaborating on that term) any assets of the "frozen" foreign government that enter US jurisdiction become the property (even if temporarily) of the US government. Thus, though they may be possessed by a bank, an individual, a fraternal organization, or a religious entity, they do not belong to those possessors, and thus seizure does not amount to the seizure of the property of a religious organization.
There is precedent for inspecting and auditing religious organizations, especially with respect to payroll, charitable activities, and a few other areas that don't impact directly on the liturgical and ritual life of the organization. (Wouldn't it be ironic that the IRS ends up being the agency that ferrets out terrorism in a reprise of its success in dealing with Capone?)
Another question. Can the assets of a foreign national, foreign corporation, or foreign group (or network) be frozen in the same manner as those of a government? I think so but I'm not certain. If the answer is no, then the analysis of the "Iran" hypo serves at best as an analogy.
Practically, it would make sense to extend the search for assets to all organizations and all religions. After all, these terrorist planners are clever, and so it wouldn't be surprising that they have money stashed in places where stereotypically one wouldn't expect to find it. A law, executive order, or agency directive promulgated in that manner ought not raise the serious 1A concerns that would otherwise arise if it were directed solely at mosques.
Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law
Villanova PA 19085
maule at law.villanova.edu
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>>> Deliotb at AOL.COM 10/20/01 11:07PM >>>
Sorry, I phrased the question in a hurry, and it was imprecise. Let me try
to make it more so, by being more specific: The federal government freezes
the assets of the government Iran. This means (I assume), among other
things, that the government bars any new money from Iran coming into the US
for any purpose. The US then gets information that the government of Iran,
which is on the terrorist state list, is funding a mosque in Maryland. Can
the government (1) ask the mosque to turn over its funding records to
determine if it is getting money from Iran? If so, how much evidence would
the government need? (2) freeze the assets of the mosque, and seize any
assets found to come from Iranian government sources? (3) for 2, does it
matter if the money comes directly from the government of Iran, or if the
money has been "washed" through a private Iranian Islamic organization known
to get all or most of its funding from the government of Iran? Obviously,
these issues could also arise if Iran was funding a Boy Scout troop. But I
wondered if there is something special about free exercise that calls for
extra caution, either prudentially or by constitutional *mandate*, with
regard to these questions. If media reports that Iran is in fact funding
Islamic institutions in the US (thereby encouraging them to adopt a strict
Islamic, and also anti-American line), then someone in the government is
apparently concerned about these issues, though it may just be PR of the US
government not wanting to be seen by the world as anti-Islamic. The reason I
originally phrased the question the way I did was I was thinking that
Congress, being less concerned than, say, the State Department, about
offending international sensibilities, might require the relevant government
agencies to treat funding of mosques by hostile foreign governments exactly
the same way it would treat funding of other institutions.
In a message dated 10/20/2001 9:20:23 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
maule at LAW.VILLANOVA.EDU writes:
> Some questions.
> First, what is an "American religious organization"? How does one apply
> such a definition to world-wide religions that consider themselves global.
> True, people (not necessarily those within denominations) refer to the
> "American" part or branch of religions, but other than those religions that
> have a separate American existence (e.g., Presbyterian Church of America,
> Presbyterian Church (USA)), would the test be whether there is a separate
> American-based legal structure?
> Second, what has been the resolution or reaction to this issue
> historically? For much of its history, the United States was (and in some
> instances is) "mission territory" for which some or much of the funding
> comes from other places. I'm not certain of the numbers but in the early
> and mid 19th century, funds flowed from European Catholics to American
> Catholics (and I'm not sure there was a separate structure for handling
> this). During the Know-Nothing tumults, was the same sort of question posed
> about restricting funding from abroad? I'm not sure.
> Third, is it necessary to narrow the focus to religious organizations? Is a
> social club or fraternal organization or athletic association any less of a
> risk, any less of a place where anti-American messages can be delivered
> (or, more importantly and certainly in another place constitutionally,
> anti-American plotting and actions can be undertaken)? So wouldn't the
> better approach be to bar foreign funding of anti-American plotting and
David E. Bernstein
George Mason University
School of Law
Home Page: http://mason.gmu.edu/~dbernste
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