Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque Debate

As my friend Richard Johnson said, "anyone who doesn't think American Muslims should be allowed to build a $100. million interfaith community center and Mosque near ground zero should watch the above video." American Muslims fight and die for America, just like other Americans. They fight for our way of life, for religious freedom, for the Bill of Rights, just like other Americans.

President Obama, said, "As a citizen and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan in accordance with laws and local ordinances."

Yes, the proposed site is two blocks from ground zero. But American Muslims had no more to do with 9/11 than American Christians had to do with the 1993 Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing. Over the years, intolerant religious groups have opposed other houses of worship being built in America, from Jewish synagogues to Catholic churches. A Christian church cannot be built in Saudia Arabia. Do we want to lower ourselves to that standard? Or are we better than that?

Republicans, very vocal in their opposition to the Mosque, seem to have abandoned the constitution on both the re-writing of the 14th amendment and on the mosque issue. They want to use both issues for political purposes as both issues are polling in opposition to the view of the party in power.

Public opinion really does not matter on these issues. We do not, we cannot, put the Bill of Rights, especially freedom of religion, to a vote. Freedom of religion is basic to who we are, to what we are about.

Today, 40 prominent religious leaders in America released a statement condemning the opposition to the Islamic center and Mosque. (See the statement and the names of the 40 below). The statement concludes, "Mr. Gingrich and Ms. Palin and other prominent voices who are fortunate to have the ear of the media would make a more lasting contribution to our nation if they stopped issuing inflammatory statements and instead helped inspire a civil dialogue between Christian, Jews, and Muslims committed to a future guided by principles of justice, compassion, and peace. Fear-mongering and hate rhetoric only undermine treasured values at the heart of diverse faith traditions and our nation's highest ideals."

In 1967, the great Senator Sam Ervin took to the Senate floor, with his best Senate speech, arguing for religious freedom and for separation of church and state. I am reminded of, and in total agreement with, his simple closing line, a basic American tenet for those who love religion and love the 1st Amendment. Sam said, "I revere religion. I revere religion because it gives us these promises and this hope. I would preserve and protect that right of religious freedom for all men."

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