Md. lawmaker vows to crack down on radical mosques

SILVER SPRING, Md. — A Maryland state lawmaker announced plans Thursday to draft a new bill that he says would crack down on radical mosques, but which critics say would be unconstitutional.

“It is time to seriously recognize that we are at war with radical Islam,” said Del. David Vogt, a Republican who represents Carroll and Frederick counties.

Under Vogt’s bill, mosques and other organizations that are linked to the spread and support of radical Islam would lose their tax-exempt status.

In a statement, Vogt said it is “quite frankly insane” for state government “to continue raising taxes on hardworking citizens while extending preferential treatment to organizations that indirectly sponsor terrorism.”

According to Vogt, there are several such organizations across Maryland, and he is calling for state tax officials, working with Homeland Security, to target them.

Vogt is running for Congress in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, which covers all of Western Maryland. Incumbent John Delaney, a Democrat, is expected to run for another term.

Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery County, said Vogt is simply trying to drum up support among conservative voters for his congressional campaign. But such a bill, which is unlikely to get far during the upcoming General Assembly session, would be unenforceable and would infringe on free speech and religious freedom rights.

“It’s unconstitutional,” said Luedtke, whose district includes Burtonsville and Damascus and is home to three large mosques.

“It’s equating most of Islam with the actions of radicals,” he said of the bill. “It’s not appropriate to blame all Muslims for terrorism.”

Although Maryland can decide whether organizations are exempt from state taxes, the state typically follows federal tax-exempt determinations, he said.

David Rocah, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Maryland, called Vogt’s proposal “ridiculous.”

The government can’t revoke an organization’s tax exempt status because it doesn’t like something that is said, or isn’t said, in a church or mosque. The phrase “radical Islam” is meaningless, with no legal definition, Rocah said.

“Will he send government agents into every mosque … into every church? A more fundamental intrusion into religious liberty can hardly be imagined,” he said.

WTOP’s Amanda Iacone contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up