The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it has expanded the definition of “racial profiling” to include national origin, gender, sexual orientation and religion. The new rule will prohibit federal agents from considering, for example, a person’s faith when conducting investigations.
Civil rights groups, which have complained that the racial profiling definition was too narrowly drawn in the past, applauded the decision, according to The New York Times.
The main bone of contention in the past has been religious profiling, especially as it applied to Muslim Americans.
Racial profiling was first banned in 2003 during the Bush administration, but with two caveats: It only applied to race, and it could not be applied to issues of national security.
Democrats have pressured Attorney General Eric Holder to eliminate the exceptions ever since he took office.
“These exceptions are a license to profile American Muslims and Hispanic-Americans,” U.S. Sen. Richard “Dick” Durbin, D-Ill., said in 2012, The Times reported.
Profiling on the basis of religion first drew fire when federal agents attested dozens of Muslims following the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on our shores by Muslim extremists.
“Putting an end to this practice not only comports with the Constitution, it would put real teeth to the FBI’s claims that it wants better relationships with religious minorities,” said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Hina Shamsi.
It’s still unclear whether the rule change will apply to national security investigations.
“Adding religion and national origin is huge,” Linda Sarsour, advocacy director for the National Network for Arab American Communities told The Times. “But if they don’t close the national security loophole, then it’s really irrelevant.”
Although the rule change only applies to federal agents, it could creep into state and local police forces over time.
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