Sunday, June 6, 2010

Prohibiting the free exercise thereof

Twin towers light I know that a lot of people aren't going to like what I write here. That's nothing new, of course, but this one might be an opinion that really won't be very popular with many folks. In fact, I still haven't solidified my own opinion on it. I have been pondering it, though.

The title of this entry comes from the First Amendment, which states that Congress "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." There is much discussion lately, and much Bookfacing taking place, concerning the proposed construction of a mosque near Ground Zero. There are a few Facebook groups that are against it, with most people saying that it would be a slap in the face to America, that it is an outrage, and so on. How dare Muslims build a mosque near the site of such a tragedy, when people of their own faith are the ones that caused it? Even some Muslims feel that it is not a good idea and are against the construction.

I do understand that some might see it as a horrible affront, almost mocking in its audacity. I'm American, remember? I recall how I felt that day and in the subsequent days. We all do.

However, my first thoughts upon seeing some of the outraged posts and reading some articles about it was of the First Amendment, and that not only do they have the right to build a mosque, they also have the right to build it there. (As long as approval is met, and the Manhattan Board approved it 29-1, with 10 abstentions, last month.) I think it's important to keep in mind that the Muslims who perpetrated the attacks were religious extremists, just like Christian fundamentalists who do things like protest at military funerals holdings signs that say "God hates fags" (the charming Fred Phelps and his minions at Westboro Baptist Church) or people who decide it's perfectly okay to murder a doctor who performs abortions (still a legal procedure in the United States, in case anyone has forgotten). There were also Muslims who were killed in the 9/11 attacks. When the buildings came down, people of many faiths, no faith, and many different nationalities were killed.

Timothy McVeigh was raised in the Catholic church, although he seemed to break with his faith as he got older. I wonder if anyone would protest a cathedral being built near the site of the Oklahoma City bombing the way they are protesting this mosque? Some might say that Muslims are free to practice their religion, no one wants to restrict that…except for not allowing it to happen close to Ground Zero. A couple of thoughts there. First, what is the appropriate distance? A hundred yards? Five hundred yards? Ten miles? Not within the continental U.S.? And who would define that distance? Secondly, those of us who oppose school prayer also use similar words to say that it is not restricting anyone from praying on their own time, merely that it is constitutionally inappropriate to have a government-financed institution participate in prayers led by teachers or administrators on school time. However, the difference is that this group that wants to build the mosque are not forcing anyone to worship a certain way, or to pray; they want to build a mosque for people of their faith to attend on their own volition. They are also not financed by the government. Public schools are different, and there should be no proselytizing whatsoever in such an institution.

As I said, I do understand why some people would be bothered by this. However, our Constitution states that we respect all religions, or those who choose not to practice religion. The building being proposed will also function as a community center and will include a pool and a book store. If they are attempting an outreach for the good and improvement of the community, isn't that a positive thing?

I do have some conflict about this, because even though that was almost nine years ago, it's still a very painful memory. However, denying any religious group their right to build a place of worship is not how we operate. It does look as though it will go through. Mayor Bloomberg supports it. Perhaps it is time to come to terms with the fact that the Constitution does apply to everyone...even people you might not agree with, or even like.

Note: This post is in no way a defense of Islam, merely a defense of their right to build a mosque where they have legally obtained land and permits. I think I've made it clear how I feel about religion in general, no matter which one it happens to be. Personally, I say build the community center, but leave off the mosque part and stop indoctrinating children. I would say the same about a Catholic cathedral or a synagogue or Christian church. Good things can be done for people and for the community without the entanglements of religious proselytizing.


  1. You continue to be one of the most reasonable and reasoned people I know. Well written, and very much mirroring my thoughts on the matter.

  2. i regard myself as spiritual,rather than religious,my beliefs are just that beth,my beliefs,and,like you,i believe no-one has the right to try and shove THEIR beliefs down my for a mosque at ground zero?i dont agree with it for that same reason,surely a MULTI faith community centre would be better?is that possible?nope.because everyone is so sure THEIR belief is the only one that matters.think its called human nature?good entry.take care my friend love mort xxx

  3. hmmm... I wasn't aware of the Mosque being built near ground zero until I read your entry. I was excited to see that you made a post and couldn't wait to see what you had to say about the issue of freedom of religion and the First Admendment in this matter.

    A lot of what is happening now is a parsing of the constitution and selectively applying what expresses their particular point of view. The elegance of the Constitution is that it is truly a timeless and clear document that made clear the intent that the Founding Father's had in mind when they wrote it.

    Even when it is twisted by people from McCarthy to the Tea Party, the Constitution always bounces back. I am of firm belief that it will again outlast those would would try to use it as a raised weapon instead of the open arms that it has always beens seen as in its history.

  4. I am a fag, queer your name it, and I have struggled with this all my live. As long as they allow other institutions to be established let it on, but I will never favor an institution that wants me death. Fuck no.. I will fight back,

  5. Leo & Morton - that has zip to do w/WHERE the mosque is placed, then, doesn't it? You both just object on the grounds it's a religious building, period - which the First Amendment permits, so can't do anything there! I guess the ONLY acceptable religious building for you both would be a Unitarian Church - which would be awesome, but unlikely....

    Beth - it should come as no surprise to you that I fart in the general direction of those who object to this b/c it's a mosque! They have a problem, they can build their own church right door.... :ppp

  6. Beth, I want to leave a comment here and I probably will but first of all I have to say I am sick and tired of this crap. It gives me a stomach ache. When and where did religion become such a belligerent issue in this country? As Mark said the constitution is an open arms document, not a closed door one. This nation is a place where all the people of whatever nationality, etnic background, education level, race or religion can live together under the rule of law, harmoniously and at peace. We are an example to the world. But we're a poor example these days.

    Ground Zero is not a sacred place. It's a hole in the ground. Everyone seems to forget, or else never noticed, the destruction of the WTC was not about Islam, it was about Israel. That some people can cite scripture for criminal acts is not the fault of the religion. If the Catholic Church wanted to build there would people object because of pedophile priests? Of course not, because it wasn't the Catholics who blew up the buildings.

    There are many great problems in the world: many children dying every day, the unresolved problems of the Middle East, human righta abuses all over the world and oil washing up on our southern flanks. Many, many great problems. A Muslim mosque in lower Manhattan is not one of them.


  7. As I've said before and before and before:
    Muslims aren't terrorists.
    Terrorists are terrorists.
    Build the mosque.

  8. what bob said.

    people in the united states should be able to build their damn church anywhere they can afford to do so.

    let's replace mosque with 'synagogue' or 'african methodist episcopal church' and see what happens. anyone denying either of those two denominations would be considered an anti-semite or a racist. then their would be the usual overgeneralizations linking the person to hitler and the acts to jim crow laws. then faux news and rush and sarah will become experts on the topic and all the good teabaggers will do exactly what they are told.

    the aforementioned wolves in sheep's clothing are more of a threat to us as americans then the flocks that are gonna build and worship at a mosque in NYC. when are people gonna see that?


  9. All religions are dangerous. I make no distinctions between any of them.

  10. I think the objections come from the fact that the majority of mosques, if not all, are built on sites sacred to someone else. Examples are the mosques built on the Temple Mount in Israel, and over 2,000 mosques built on former Hindu temple sites. I don't remember the name of it, but there is a former Catholic (I think) church somewhere that was converted to a mosque.

    The purpose of this practice is to show Islam's superiority over all other religions. It's clear from Islam's history that the Ground Zero location is no accident. It's clear intention is to display their superiority over the United States, considered by the rest of the world to be a Christian nation. They know that the site of a tragedy is customarily memorialized by Americans, such as the site of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City.

    If the proposed building site was anywhere else in the New York area, I don't think there would be any objections.

  11. Great topic and a beautifully reasoned post. Having followed the link trail a ways, I entirely agree with your position and its constitutional basis. I also entirely agree with Stephen Suleyman Schwartz who points out the contradiction in the thinking of Imam Rauf, the Sufi spiritual leader of the Cordoba project: if Sufism puts strong emphasis on sensitivity toward others, then what could be less sensitive in a Muslim than to build an extravagantly large (15 storey) center 600 ft. from Ground Zero?

    It isn't lost on most Americans that it has been in mosques that so many who embrace terrorist philosophies and intentions have been incubated.

    I conclude that we Americans should approve the project and that the Muslim community, and Imam Rauf in particular, should call a temporary halt in the construction of this center in order to search their hearts and consciences, to reflect on their intentions, and to clarify their motives for themselves, asking for prayers from Muslims throughout the country. The terrorist act that brought down the Towers impacted all Americans; the decisions that are being made by the Cordoba Initiative will also effect all Americans...even those who are not aware of the project. A prayer halt at this juncture would go a long way toward reassuring Americans.

    And all that is asking a hell of a lot from all concerned.

  12. I agree, a community center and leave it at that.

  13. Though you know I'm not fan of religion/religious institutions Beth, I'm looking forward to the mosque being built. It is an important symbol in some ways. The people who don't want the mosque built are either racist, anti-Islam, or terribly uninformed about our constitution and our nation's history. Hard to fight that, but fight it we must.


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