I am consistently amazed at the ability of the American public (and the international community as well) to understand the concept of freedom, yet attempt to revoke that freedom whenever those trying to exercise their freedoms are not desirable.
How many times have we heard the refrain: “Freedom of speech applies to speech you do not agree with” yet we can’t seem to find it in us to apply the same criteria to religion. Islam is evil. Islam is a terrorist religion. Islam is not Christian. The same could be (and has been) said of the Nazi party, yet the Nazi party is legal in the United States. Freedom only works if everyone enjoys it. I can stand up and say “I hate my government” yet still be an American and a patriot, and I can also be an American and a patriot if I am a Muslim.
On the other side, we have people saying that anything a religion does short of outright violence should be protected. Either they are steeped in multiculturalism or they fear that if we persecute one religion for being stupid, we’ll get around to their religion eventually just because.
In the United States of America we have something called the 1st Amendment, guaranteeing the freedom of religion and speech. The religious portion of the amendment was created because the founders understood that a nation run from the pulpit was a danger to society. This is important, because religion was something that most people already based almost their entire lives off of. It was something so ingrained into society that many people could not separate their religious lives and their secular ideas. There was no difference. Even under these circumstances, the founders believed that there should be some method for preventing one religion from gaining dominance over everyone’s lives. The only way this could make sense was to separate religion from government so that an idea that could not be justified by any means other than “God wills it” would not make it into law.
Despite this protection, which is a protection FROM religion as much as it is a protection FOR religion, we have grown up as a nation with certain things hopelessly tangled together that should not be: Tax exemption of religious organizations, marriage being both religious and secular, the current fight to add or keep prayer in public schools, and the more offensive ideas, allowing pedophiles sanctuary in the Catholic church because to find them and prosecute them would step on the toes of religion, or the Westboro Baptist Church who, if it weren’t for the fact that they were a religious organization, would be prosecuted under our harassment laws for their constant invasions on the private funerals of other citizens. The sad reality is that we let too much slide in the name of not offending someone’s religious sensibilities, and we’re doing it again with the Ground Zero Mosque controversy. They are either terrorists or they are not. It is an easy thing to figure out, but no one is interested in doing so. One side want’s to let them build because it’s a matter of religious freedom, and the other wants to prevent it because it would “insult New Yorkers and the victims of 9/11” never mind the legalities of the situation, or due process or even fact-checking.
Insults abound in the United States. If you don’t want to be insulted, then you picked the wrong country to live in. Why we should expect Muslims to abide by this unwritten not-rule when we ourselves don’t even do it is beyond me. On the other hand, if the only reason why we would say “Yes they have a right to build” is because they are guaranteed the right because they are a religion, then maybe it’s time to re evaluate our stance of religion in general, not just Islam.
“Congress shall make no law respecting religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
That doesn’t mean that religion must enjoy any special privileges. It only means that all religions must be treated the same. These days that still means they are treated just a little better than someone who practices no religion at all, and I submit that this is a direct violation of the 1st Amendment. Religion is personal, not political. It is something each person makes up their own minds about on an individual basis, and if Christianity has taught us anything, it is that you can’t judge everyone in the religion by the book they carry, otherwise all of Christianity, Judaism and Islam would be treated as hate groups. It takes only one reading of the Bible, Koran or Torah to notice that all three religions are founded on the principle that anyone who is not one of the chosen people does not deserve respect, protection or even the right to exist in many cases, yet we don’t say that Jews rape and murder non-Jews or that Christians are hate-mongering white supremacists. Religion does not need special consideration by the 1st Amendment. It does not need to be protected any more than the protection freedom of speech already grants to anyone who feels the need to trouble other people with their wacky ideas. Why should someone’s religious ideas be any more or less protected than any other idea? If someone wanted to build a shopping mall at or near ground zero, then it wouldn’t even be news. Neither should the fact that it is a “community center” or “mosque” be news either. If you can’t deny the building of the Mosque on any other basis than the fact that it is Muslim (or that it may insult someone), then you MUST not only permit it, but DEFEND that permission to the best of your ability even if you happen not to agree with them. Supporting freedom doesn’t mean only supporting it when it’s convenient. By the same token, if you can’t justify it any other way than to say “It is a religious freedom” then it has no business being there. Legally, a mosque should be allowed because those who are trying to build it went through all the legal hoops required to get the building permits. There’s nothing in our building codes and permissions that says “…unless it is a mosque..” and there shouldn’t be.
The rest just need to suck it up. It is not a multi-culturalist attempt to “Islamicize” the United States. We can only be insulted if we choose to be insulted. We can only have our rights taken away if we weaken them by making exceptions to those rights in situations like this. It is also not an attempt to silence religious freedom. People are afraid of Islam, and rightly so, but then again, they should also be afraid of Christianity and Judaism, and for exactly the same reasons.
End of story.