April 16, 2009
(RNS) -- Conservative Christian groups blasted a new report from the Department of Homeland Security on "rightwing extremism," calling it an example of "guilt by association" for linking anti-abortion activists with hate groups.
The 10-page "assessment" from the department stresses that the report is not based on specific threats.
"The HDS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis ... has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence," the April 7 report says, "but rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues."
The report draws parallels between the "current national climate" with the 1990s, when there was evidence of "white supremacists' longstanding exploitation of social issues such as abortion, interracial crimes, and same-sex marriage."
It cites the economic downturn and the election of the nation's first African-American president as potential "drivers" for recruitment by rightwing groups.
Janice Shaw Crouse, director of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute, called the report alarmist.
"It is the worst sort of extremism for a government agency to stir up fear against those groups who hold biblical views on social issues," Crouse said. "It is even worse to link those views with `interracial crimes.' What unconscionable guilt by association!"
In a statement released Wednesday (April 15), Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the assessment is one of a series that is sent to law enforcement agencies across the country. The department also issued a Jan. 26 assessment on "leftwing extremists" that focused on potential cyber attacks.
"We don't have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence," she said.
"We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not -- nor will we ever -- monitor ideology or political beliefs."
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called it "a shockingly biased new report," and Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, said it unfairly characterized those with anti-abortion views.
"This is an outrageous characterization that raises serious questions about the leadership and direction of the agency charged with protecting Americans in the ongoing battle against terrorism," said Sekulow.