Monday, August 30, 2010

On Building Mosques and other Religious Intolerance

Here is a simple test to determine whether or not objections to building a mosque are based on religious intolerance. Would the objections be exactly the same if a Baptist church, Catholic Cathedral, Jewish Synagogue, Mormon Temple or Quaker Meeting House were planned for the exact same spot?

If everyone agrees that (for whatever reason) no religious establishment is appropriate for a particular location, forbidding the building of a mosque in that spot is not Islamophobia – although it maybe antireligious—but that is a different issue.

Those who oppose building the proposed mosque within two blocks of the former World Trade Center do not pass the test. Nor do those in the towns and cities across the country where they criticize building mosques in areas zoned for religious institutions.

To liken the protests, as recently did to those by the National Parks Conservation Association (“NPCA”) against building a Wal-Mart on parts of the Wilderness Civil War battlefield not incorporated into the National Park is specious. They claim both protests are based on the same principle: “It is simply the wrong building in the wrong place regardless of developers’ legal rights.” The difference is NPCA opposed building any big box store on the civil war battlefield directly opposite the visitor’s center. Wal-Mart happens to be their current target.

Opponents of the mosque, however, do not oppose any building for the site. Their claim is that a mosque, in particular, is inappropriate. Why? Because the World Trade Center terrorists were Muslims and building a mosque would be “insensitive” to the victims of that tragedy. So go further and note that Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow Christian churches, so “fair is fair.”

Malarkey. One of the things that has made the United States great is the First Amendment of the Constitution. We are not Saudi Arabia with a state religion. For those who love the constitution, but forget to actually read the document, here is the First Amendment in its entirety:

Amendment 1
Freedom of religion, speech, and the press; rights of assembly and petition

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

One of the best ways to show terrorists that their 2001 attack on the United States failed miserably is to adhere to our principles. Let the mosque be built so terrorists from around the world can see that, unlike in their countries, we will NOT prohibit the free exercise of religion—even when it is of a small minority of residents. That we value the right for all peoples to peaceably assemble—regardless of their secular or religious message.

We win by remembering who and what we in these Unites States stand for. We lose if we become as intolerant as our enemies.

~ Jim

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