Biden’s Council to Keep Churches Safe Includes Al Sharpton and ‘Three Islamists’
As attacks against churches have tripled over the last four years, the Biden administration has appointed a faith-based security commission to advise officials on how to keep churches safe — a council that includes Al Sharpton, a former leader of the National LGBTQ Task Force, and a Muslim leader who held a fundraiser for a convicted cop-killer.
The Department of Homeland Security warned that churches and “faith-based institutions” face a greater likelihood of violent attacks in the coming months due to the caustic U.S. political debate, warned a May 24 bulletin. To minimize the risk, the DHS “continues to engage a coalition of faith-based and community organizations, including members of the Faith-Based Security Advisory Council (FBSAC),” which aims “to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of targeted violence or terrorism, major disasters, cyberattacks, or other threats or emergencies against places of worship, faith communities, and faith-based organizations.”
Al Sharpton founded the National Action Network shortly before the racially charged August 1991 Crown Heights riots. Sharpton led crowds in chanting, “No justice, no peace” before rioters claimed the life of rabbinical student Yankel Rosenbaum. Sharpton’s “vile rhetoric incited the rioting,” said Rosenbaum’s brother, Norman. A month earlier, Sharpton challenged New York’s Jewish community, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” In 1995, Sharpton would lead months-long demonstrations against Jewish “white interlopers” at Freddy’s Fashion Mart, who raised the rent of a black business owner; ultimately, a protester burned the store and killed eight people, including himself.
Naomi Washington-Leapheart most recently worked as “the Faith Work Director for the National LGBTQ Task Force,” one of the nation’s oldest LGBT pressure groups, which seeks to change Christianity’s Bible-based teachings about sexuality and gender. The Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources seeks to create a “paradigm shift in Christianity” to bring about the “unconditional welcome of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and their families in the church home of their choice.” Washington-Leaphart, a self-styled “anti-oppression consultant” and “person of moral courage” who teaches Africana Studies and theology at Villanova University, led the Task Force’s “public faith messaging and advocacy and leadership development” to recruit LGBTQ advocates inside churches and religious institutions. Washington-Leapheart personally denounced the United Methodist Church as “immoral” for seeking to oust Karen Oliveto from a church leadership position “simply because she is an out and proud married [sic] lesbian.” Washington-Leapheart, who is ordained by the United Church of Christ, was “outraged” when President Donald Trump issued a 2019 conscience regulation protecting health care workers from being coerced into taking part in abortions, transgender surgeries, or assisted suicides — a rule the Task Force called “immoral.” She also endorsed the so-called “Equality Act,” which would amend landmark civil rights legislation to add gender identity and sexual preference, creating what critics call second-class, “separate but equal status” for Christians. The Task Force also operates the “Queering Reproductive Justice” campaign. “Although many people talk about reproductive health as a ‘women’s issue,’ many LGBTQ people — including lesbian and bisexual women, transgender men, two-spirit, intersex, nonbinary and gender non-conforming individuals — can get pregnant, use birth control, have abortions,” the campaign says. “Most recently, our opponents have been using religion and ‘conscience’ as a guise for discrimination against LGBTQ people and people seeking access to reproductive health services.”
Leslie Copeland-Tune of the National Council of Churches (NCC), which has long embraced left-of-center views in the name of Christianity. Thanks to the dwindling number of mainline Protestants, beginning in 2005 the NCC received the bulk of its donations from left-wing nonprofits, including some led by George Soros, according to Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Copeland-Tune said in December 2020 that the belief that America is a Christian nation is “almost toxic” and “has really fed into the idea of white nationalism, of Christian nationalism.” In 2021, one of NCC’s “priorities” was H.R. 40, which “would explore offering reparations” to black Americans “as a matter of equity.” She judged that Trayvon Martin’s “assassination” served as “an indictment on the character of a nation.” The NCC leader, ordained in a Baptist church, said President Donald Trump’s 2018 proposed budget, which cut welfare spending as a means of reducing government dependence, “legislates evil.”
Mohamed Hagmagid Ali, commonly known as Imam Mohamed Magid, is the executive director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center. In March 2008, Magid spoke at an ADAMS Center fundraiser for convicted cop-killer H. Rap Brown (who now goes by the name “Jamil Al-Amin”); participants at the event described Brown, who murdered a black deputy and wounded his partner, as “a political prisoner.” Brown leads the National Ummah, whose “primary mission is to establish a separate, sovereign Islamic state within the borders of the United States, governed by Shariah law,” according to the FBI. Magid was present when federal agents raided the ADAMS Center in March 2002 as the government investigated the SAAR Network based in the “Grove Street addresses,” more than 100 interlocking Muslim organizations at two addresses that the government accused of giving material aid to terrorists; ultimately, it did not arrest anyone. Magid spoke at the funeral of President Ronald Reagan on June 11, 2004.
In 2006, Magid denied the Sudanese genocide in Darfur, telling Georgetown University students that “things escalated, and people called it genocide” merely out of “some kind of exaggeration.” The U.S. State Department called the slaughter, which reportedly claimed an estimated 200,000 lives, a “genocide” in which Arab Muslims often targeted African Christians. “The government of Sudan is carrying out genocidal practices against its religious and ethnic minorities,” Nina Shea, then a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told Congress in 2001. Last August, Joe Biden also appointed Magid to USCIRF.
Salam al-Marayati co-founded the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Al-Marayati compared Islamic terrorists to “American freedom fighters hundreds of years ago” and described the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans as “not in a strict sense, a terrorist operation. It was a military operation, producing no civilian casualties — exactly the kind of attack that Americans might have lauded had it been directed against Washington’s enemies.” The Washington Timeshas described MPAC as “an anti-Semitic organization that has defended infamous terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.” Both MPAC and Magid have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist, Islamist organization whose membership included al-Qaeda founders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Although bin Laden’s mother said the Brotherhood “brainwashed” him into its “cult,” MPAC has stated the Brotherhood poses “long-term strategic threats to violent extremists by siphoning Muslims away from violent radicalism into peaceful political activism.” MPAC subsequently likened an Egyptian government more amenable to the Muslim Brotherhood to America’s Founding Fathers.
“Biden’s handlers would never dream of appointing someone who actually opposes jihad violence and Sharia oppression of women. If they did, there would be a huge outcry over ‘Islamophobia,’ and the appointment would be withdrawn,” wrote Robert Spencer, an expert on the Islamic religion, on JihadWatch.org. “But these guys? No problem.”
Chandru Acharya is the director of Hindu Sawamsayvak Sangh (HSS-USA), which invited Hindu militant Sadhvi Ritambhara to an event in Georgia last August 30-31. When she believed Indian extremists had murdered a Roman Catholic nun for trying to convert a Hindu in 1995, Ritambhara threatened, “If a single choti [or shika, the tuft of hair thought to bring cosmic enlightenment] or janeu [sacred thread worn by Hindus] is cut, Christians will be wiped out from the face of India.” She was also said to be “the single most powerful instrument for whipping up anti-Muslim violence” in the world’s second-most-populous nation. Critics — most of whom belong to U.S. Muslim or left-wingorganizations — say their concerns are less with Acharya “as a person” than with the HSS-USA’s purported ties to groups advocating a Hindu nationalist philosophy known as Hindutva.
Talib M. Shareef serves as imam and president of the D.C.-based Masjid Muhammad, “the nation’s mosque.” The mosque was founded by W. Deen Mohammed, the son of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Mohammed. Shareef hosted current NOI leader Louis Farrakhan at the mosque’s 75th anniversary in 2013. In 2018, Shareef was arrested alongside extremists Linda Sarsour and Nihad Awad outside then-Speaker Paul Ryan’s office while demanding the extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty program.
Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), has dependably promoted left-wing causes, often while citing the Bible. He called abortion a “righteous procedure.” He “vehemently condemn[ed]” the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which he asserted would “undermine the religious freedom of people … in the Jewish tradition” — a view denounced by many Jewish and rabbinical authorities. The rabbi is a board member of the liberal NAACP and says he supports “LGBTQ+ equality,” including “celebrating” last year’s passage of H.R. 8404, which critics called the “Disrespect for Marriage Act.” He also decried “anti-LGBTQ+ bills” primarily aimed at protecting young people from life-altering surgeries. Yet Pesner invoked the words of the prophet Isaiah, Genesis, and Proverbs to support Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill while standing amid a crowd of mask-clad Religious Left leaders at an outdoor press conference in December 2021. Upon his appointment to the FBSAC, Pesner said he will not necessarily call for police to guard houses of worship, especially in minority areas due to “a real danger of overpolicing.” Recent polls have found 81% of black Americans want the same or greater levels of police presence in their neighborhoods.
Julie Schonfeld, the former CEO of the Rabbinical Assembly, gave the closing benediction at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and founded Jewish Women for Joe [Biden] during the 2020 election. While leading the Rabbinical Assembly, which guides synagogues affiliated with Conservative Judaism, in 2011 the rabbi “involved gay rabbinical students” (the “treasured members of our community”) in the production of a Jewish service blessing same-sex couples. The RA adopted the rite blessing same-sex Jewish couples to establish “a true and faithful Jewish home” 13-0 in 2012. After the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision struck down the pivotal section of the Defense of Marriage Act, Schonfeld said conservative Judaism “celebrates marriages, whether between partners of the same sex or the opposite sex. We therefore celebrate today’s decisions on gay marriage.” In 2020, she called on clergy to promote the COVID-19 vaccine.
Few FBSAC members represent the majority view of churchgoers on social issues such as abortion and marriage.
While Moshe Hauer of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America criticized New York state’s overbearing regulations of Jewish religious schools (yeshivas), the rabbi thanked Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) for offering a “religious liberty” amendment to the Respect for Marriage Act that most faith-based groups found legally useless. His response to the Supreme Court’s pro-life Dobbs ruling proved muted. “The Orthodox Union is unable to either mourn or celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade,” the group said.
Pastor Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition led more than 100 pastors in urging the Democratic Party to oppose abortion and uphold the biblical definition of marriage. He stands closer to Biden on immigration, as the Orlando-based pastor supports amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants and opposes a bill by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) to punish nonprofits that knowingly aid illegal immigrants, adding that sometimes his ministry drives illegal immigrants “to their lawyer.”
The FBSAC also includes representatives from the Salvation Army, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (which endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act), and the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church.
The president specifically chose these members to “ensure equity, maintain openness and transparency, and fully restore the trust of the communities we serve,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas when he installed the 25 FBSAC members last September 19.
It is unclear how the council, which advises the DHS on keeping churches and “faith-based institutions” safe, responded to the escalating attacks on U.S. churches and pro-life pregnancy resource centers, many of which are affiliated with churches. Arsons, desecrations, and vandalism of U.S. churches nearly tripled in the first quarter of 2023 compared to 2022. There have been 353 attacks on U.S. churches between the beginning of the Biden administration and March 31, according to documentation in two separate reports by Arielle Del Turco of Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty.
The DHS faith council’s left-wing orientation is reminiscent of President Biden’s short-lived National Parents and Families Engagement Council, which was formed last June 14 after a year of parental backlash against extreme gender ideology and critical race theory in public schools. After an exposé of the council by The Washington Stand, three conservative legal organizations — America First Legal Foundation, Fight for Schools and Families, and Parents Defending Education — sued, saying the parents council’s makeup violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires advisors to be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view.” Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and three other U.S. senators wrote that the family council had “forgotten to include any actual families” in a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona dated December 2.
Three days later, the Biden administration dismantled the council, less than six months after its formation.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.