The press has been filled with commentary and rebuttals about the planned deliberate burning of copies of the Quran by a small, middle-American congregation and their wannabe important and noticed “charismatic” minister. It seems justified to many, but if it were to meet with broad social approval, the camel’s nose would be firmly and perhaps permanently in the tent. What next?
Although the plan has now been withdrawn, the questions and issues raised hang in the Air like the smell of stale smoke after a residential fire.
There are more Christians than Jews in the United States, and while the New Testament is, in some ways, and extension of the Old, it is a different book with some different beliefs and ideas. Suppose that Christians were to decide that the Old Testament, because it does not concur with some of the important teachings of the New Testament, ought to be categorically destroyed. Does that sound right to anyone?
In George Orwell’s famous tale of what-might-have-been-the-future novel, ” 1984 “,’the protagonist, Winston Smith, was charged with rewriting history at the directions of Big Brother and his staff. The past and any evidence of it was purged and replaced with a new version of history that was consistent with the here and now, as Big Brother wanted people to know it. Would this be a world any of us would really want to live and raise our children in?
The dilemma parallels many including that regarding the termination of pregnancies where the fetuses are known to be imperfect and perhaps even gravely disabled even prenatally. Does that justify their destruction? If it does, what happens when people in power decide that fetuses determined to have blond hair, blue eyes or are left handed are to be terminated.
Most Jewish people who are aware of it, cringe at the mention of an infamous but much translated and circulated anti Semitic little book of fabricated Mel Gibsonesque-like hateful lies called, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” written to generate and fan the flames of Antisemitism around the world and first published in Russia back in 1903. To my knowledge, there has never been a serious suggestion of trying to round them all up and burn them.
No matter what our personal ethical, moral or political views, it is best if we all understand the risks involved in allowing for the selective application of constitutional protections.
Selection is a process that involves people deciding. That is why the law is based on precedent, so that fewer new decisions and interpretations need to be made. This does not always mean that the precedents are either right or righteous, but, until changed, they are the law.
Build a mosque near the site of the WTC towers? Perhaps poor judgment, perhaps not. But in this — in OUR country, no way can it be illegal or does the constitution allow for it to be prohibited.
Laws have never successfully taken the place of good judgment, though they have the power to override it. We are all free or none of us is free. Freedom of speech includes most spoken and written words or little if any of it remains free.
Our beliefs and hearts may lead us to argue for exceptions to everything and anything, but we must be ever alert to the slippery slope of altering a fundamental principle because of an individual situation. The Constitution protects us all or it protects none of us. Even at the local level, selective enforcement is illegal.