The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a formal complaint with the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee against Coffee County District Attorney General Craig Northcott on Tuesday, May 29, regarding Northcott’s anti-Islam remarks on social media.
The statement was made in reply to Daniel Berry, who posed the question on April 20, “Is it ever acceptable to stereotype an entire group who all have mixed beliefs versus letting each individual be judged based on their own actions?” Berry is currently running to be an alderman in Tullahoma.
Northcott responded to the post and called the Islam belief system “evil, violent and against God’s Truth.”
CAIR believes Northcott’s statement violates two rules in the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct.
In the formal complaint, CAIR believes Northcott violated Rule 3.8, a comment in the rule that states “prosecutors are expected "to be impartial in the sense that charging decisions should be based upon the evidence, without discrimination or bias for or against any groups or individuals. Yet, at the same time, they are expected to prosecute criminal offenses with zeal and vigor within the bounds of the law and professional conduct."
CAIR’s complaint also alleges Northcott violated rule 8.4, which states “A lawyer who, in the course of representing a client, knowingly manifests, by words or conduct, bias or prejudice based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status violates paragraph (d) when such actions are prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
Reached by the Times, Northcott did not wish to issue any comments about the official complaint filed by CAIR.
According to the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct, “There are rules that apply to lawyers who are not active in the practice of law or to practicing lawyers even when they are acting in a nonprofessional capacity.”
When reached by the Times, Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee’s Chief Disciplinary Counsel representative Sandy Garrett could not answer if the allegations Northcott made on Facebook would merit disciplinary actions.
Previously, CAIR called for Northcott’s resignation on Friday, May 17. Northcott told the Manchester Times and Tullahoma News on the same day that he is not resigning.
Berry posted a response on Facebook two days after CAIR’s initial statement on May 19.
“Certain groups are calling for the resignation of our District Attorney because of his comments and arguing that he is unable to be fair and unbiased. Even though in that post, I disagreed with some of his opinions, which he has since further clarified and I agree with, I strongly disagree with the attempts to remove him from office for exercising his First Amendment rights. I also vehemently object to attempting to remove him from office based on the premise that he is unable to pursue justice without bias equally when no evidence has been provided to back that claim,” Berry stated.
Northcott’s original post
The original response, in its entirety, is as follows:
“Their belief system is evil, violent and against God's Truth. If they follow the teaching of their "god" and lead the life exemplified by their "prophet", they must kill anyone who doesn't accept their lie. They are taught to commit many atrocities in the name of their "god" including pedophilia, beating of their wives, female genital mutilation and "honor" killings. They are not evil because of their gender, skin color or country of origin. Instead, they are evil because they profess a commitment to an evil belief system. They are no less evil because they don't act on their belief system if they refuse to disavow that system. Romans 1:32 comes to mind in which we are taught that you are just as guilty before God if you give approval to those who engage in evil acts. It is no different than being part of the KKK, Aryan Nation, etc. If you support those viewpoints, you are rightly and readily condemned in our society. However, it is now politically incorrect to take a stand against Islam that has the same core of hate. I do not hate the individual but I will not be cowered into pretending that their belief system is legitimate or one of peace. We are fools if we don't recognize this and protect ourselves, our families, our communities and our country from succumbing to this present and growing threat. Take a look at what is happening in Europe and see if you want that for America.”
The full post can be found on Berry’s Facebook page, as of Wednesday, May 29.
Coffee County Republican Party support Northcott
On Saturday, May 20, Richard Brooks, chairman of the Coffee County Republican Party, announced he had sent a letter to the executive committee of the Tennessee Republican Party “in regard to the attack on our District Attorney Craig Northcott.”
“He is the subject of a political hit job by the group known as CAIR fueled by a biased media and out of context reporting,” Brooks said.
The Coffee County Republican Party fully supports Northcott, according to Brooks.
“He has the same first amendment right to speak in any forum his own opinion and views,” Brooks said, adding that freedom of speech should apply to all citizens of the nation.
“The Republican Party at the state level has been asked by CAIR to ‘repudiate’ DA Northcott and in my letter to (the Republican Party) I have asked them to put full support of the party at the state level behind him,” Brooks said. “If we continue to allow these type of groups to control our society and constitutional rights, we are lost as a nation.”
CAIR’s calls for resignation
This is not the first instance CAIR has called for action against people who have made anti-Islam comments on social media. According to CAIR’s website, CAIR wanted David Heyen, chairman of the board of trustees at Lewis and Clark Community College, to resign over a series of anti-Islam messages posted online in May. The Riverfront Times reported that, within the post, Heyen claimed “countries without Muslim residents suffer no terrorism.”
The Board of Trustees voted to request that Heyen remove himself, but did not get enough votes, according to The Riverfront Times.
In April, the Georgia chapter of CAIR called for Hoschton Mayor Theresa Kenerly and Councilman Jim Cleveland to resign due to allegedly racist remarks made by the city officials. According to Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), Kenerly withheld a job candidate from consideration based on the color of their skin.
Cleveland revealed he was against interracial marriage in a separate statement, according to AJC. Both are also facing heat from the community to resign.