Ex-Irvine Council Candidate Pops Up in Muslim School's Trump Funding Diss

Muslims pray at sundown during LAX protest against Trump's travel ban.EXPAND
Muslims pray at sundown during LAX protest against Trump's travel ban.
Allix Johnson

"There was some hesitation about the grant under Obama, but people still felt that we could work together and be productive. But under Trump the idea that we can work together or be productive completely went away."
-Todd Gallinger, a civil rights attorney who resides in Irvine, to NBC News.

Gallinger, an unsuccessful 2008 Irvine City Council candidate, was speaking about $800,000 in federal grant money being refused by Bayan Claremont, an Islamic theology school related to the Claremont School of Theology. The George Washington University Law School-educated head of the Gallinger Law Firm in Anaheim Hills is expected to graduate in June from Bayan with a Masters of Arts, Religion–Islamic Studies & Leadership.

Bayan spent $20,000 on grant writers and one month of staff time perfecting an application for the Department of Homeland Security's Countering Violent Extremism Grant Program aimed at expanding "efforts at the community level to counter violent extremist recruitment and radicalization to violence." The application for Bayan's "Flourishing Communities" project, which would improve inter-religious cooperation, civic engagement and social justice, was approved with about a month to go in the Obama administration.

But new President Donald Trump's campaign promise to completely shut down Muslims entering the country and recent travel ban actions "poisoned the well" as far as Bayan officials are concerned. In a 7-1 vote, the school's board made the decision to decline the much-needed $800k.

This is not the first time politics and religion mixed for Gallinger, who converted to Islam in 2000 and in 2008 was a member of the Keep Irvine Great political slate that included then-Mayor Beth Krom and then-councilmen Sukhee Kang and Larry Agran, who'd been the city's longtime Boss Hogg. 

During the campaign, and without calling Gallinger out by name, Steven Choi, who was then a councilman running for reelection, questioned his political opponent's work with what he called a "dangerous" Islamic advocacy group with alleged terrorist ties.

That was a reference to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), whose Greater Los Angeles-area office is in Anaheim. Since becoming a Muslim, Gallinger represented CAIR in several class-action lawsuits. Supporters say CAIR helps spread understanding of Islam and protection of civil liberties, but critics say the nonprofit pushes an Islamist agenda and had past ties to Hamas, although that was before the U.S. government deemed Hamas a terrorist organization.

Gallinger received 22,000 votes in that election, which was not enough to gain a seat on the council. Choi, Krom, Kang and Agran are no longer on the council.

As for CAIR, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization held a news conference at its Capitol Hill headquarters in Washington, D.C., where CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad responded to Trump signing of his new "Muslim Ban 2.0" executive order:

"This scaled-back order represents a partial victory for Americans fighting for the rights of immigrants in the U.S. and directly responds to several immigration cases and scenarios brought forward in CAIR's anti-ban lawsuit.

"While this is a major political defeat for the Trump administration—we cannot now be complacent. We must continue to fight this discriminatory and unconstitutional executive action.

"As White House Adviser Steven Miller promised, this watered-down 'Muslim Ban 2.0' was retooled to achieve the same unconstitutional policy outcome as the first deeply-flawed order. We believe this desired policy outcome is in fulfillment of now-President Trump's campaign pledge to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. This order stills stigmatizes the faith of Islam and Muslim. It does not make America any safer, but does make America LESS great.

"This Muslim order still blocks travel to the U.S. by citizens from six Muslim-majority countries.

"CAIR continues to receive reports of unconstitutional and systematic ideological questioning of American-Muslim citizens and foreign travelers by CBP about their religious values and political views.

"Just recently Muhammad Ali's son, Muhammad Ali Jr. while traveling with his mother, was detained and according to reports asked at least twice about his religion. Religious screening is un-American and remains unconstitutional.

"14 million doctors' appointments are provided each year by physicians from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—the six countries targeted by the recent Executive Order, according to the new website www.immigrantdoctors.org, which shows the threat to health care in the areas of our nation served by these doctors from the targeted countries.

"The driving force behind this Muslim Ban are the Islamophobes and White supremacists employed by the Trump Administration, including Sebastian Gorka, Steve Bannon, and Stephen Miller. This order is just a preview of future anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policy proposals being fed to President Trump by his Islamophobic advisers.

"This Administration is actively working to undercut religious liberties and the freedom of American Muslims, despite Constitutional protections that guarantee freedom of religion to all."


CAIR used the occasion to launch "Register Me First" (#RegisterMeFirst / Registermefirst.com) "to challenge President Trump's Islamophobic policies, including the Muslim ban and a proposed Muslim registry."


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