September 20, 2001
Contact: Gwen McKinney
Defense of American Freedoms
Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights issued the following statement in support of “In Defense of Freedom”
Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, commented on the devastating events of last week. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the nation’s largest and most diverse civil and human rights coalition of more than 180 national organizations whose members include more than 50 million Americans, has called for national unity in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States:
These are uncertain days. Life will never be the same after last week’s tragic attacks, yet our system of government and our way of life will, and must, remain in place. We must resist rash action conceived in the heat of national crisis.
History has shown us that, in past times of national calamity, civil rights and civil liberties fall victim to the crisis just as surely as the human victims whose loss we all grieve. This coalition has been formed with the hope that the aftermath of last week’s tragedy will be the exception.
The attacks against Arab-Americans and other religious minorities who live within our borders must cease. We must resist efforts to target these or any other individuals because of their race or religion. The horrors in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania may well be the actions of a broader terrorist network; however, current law offers ample tools to address the need for national security. We must not compound this tragedy by infringing on the rights of Americans or persons guaranteed protections under the Constitution.
New security measures brought before Congress must be considered in a calm, reasoned and public fashion. The legislators and leaders in Washington must fulfill their roles as the peoples’ representatives.
And make no mistake, the Judiciary must remain in its indispensable role as the guardian of our Constitution.
Americans recognize that civil liberties can and must be squared with effective national security. Those who would seek to do otherwise destroy the very essence of what makes America unique.
Finally, we must also recognize the importance of peaceful dissent. The First Amendment was ratified not just to allow the free flow of ideas and the open exchange of opinions, but also to encourage this activity. The civil rights movement itself found its roots in the concept of free expression.
The government must take this lesson to heart and hold only those secrets from the public that are necessary to keep America safe. The government must have faith in the limitations placed on its power by our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We must support and applaud those lawmakers and leaders who do not take the path of political expediency but stand bravely and affirm our freedom.
We stand with the President, his Cabinet and Congress in our rage and grief. This coalition is about more than keeping Americans from becoming less free; it is about trumpeting our freedom in the face of terrorists. It is about showing our attackers and the world that the ideals on which this country is based can never be destroyed.