"Religious freedom" being put to the test
My July 30, 2010, newspaper column regarding the insecurity of many Christians opposing the proposed Muslim Center and Mosque, two blocks from New York City's "Ground Zero," raised the hackles of many West Texans.
Of the more than thirty who took the time to write, none even mentioned the thrust of the article: the First Amendment of the American Constitution. There it is written that this country will not be like others, but allow real religious freedom. One of the great "firsts" of history. My critics only expressed their hatred for Muslims.
Now the renowned educator, Glenn Beck, has falsely claimed the mosque would be dedicated next year on Sept. 11. Adding to the mix of confusion, as usual was Sarah Palin's tweet: "Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation, it stabs hearts."
Robert Parham, editor of Ethics Daily, contributed a piece in the Washington Post in which he wrote: "If religious liberty is an American hallmark, then the mosque near Ground Zero would be an American landmark to our nation's commitment to religious freedom for all. What better cultural signpost could we offer than one that says America is guided by its better angels, not its dark demons of fear and politicians of demagoguery."
Parham went on to remind us that the Baptist Thomas Helwys wrote to King James I advocating religious freedom for "Turks" in England. And Virginia Baptist minister John Leland, upon the adoption of the Constitution, "rejoiced that it would be possible for a pagan, Turk, Jew or Christian to be elected to political office."
A former U.S. congressman, thrice-married Newt "Do what I say and not what I do" Gingrich (he said to a former wife), wants to be president. He proclaimed that there were no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. That country is hardly a high-water mark when it comes to religious liberty.
I like (in spite of his vulgar vocabulary) Comedian Jon Stewart on television's Daily Show. I watched the other night as he sarcastically replied to Gingrich: "Why should we as Americans have higher standards of religious liberty than Saudi Arabia?"
And on Monday, Aug. 16, the highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate officially came out against construction of the mosque in its current location
"The First Amendment protects freedom of religion," reads a statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office (D-Nev.). "Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else."
Reid, like many, "respects" the Constitution, but not enough to enforce it.
I mentioned last month that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said if it were Methodists or Presbyterians planning a church two blocks from Ground Zero, there would be no such reaction from both left and right. Last Tuesday (Aug 3) he again made a strong speech for religious liberty.
The Atlantic's James Fallows said about that speech, "I have to say that all Americans are New Yorkers today, in the wake of Mayor Bloomberg's brave and eloquent defense of American tolerance, and the resilient strength of America's diverse society, in welcoming the vote that cleared the way for construction of a mosque near the site of Ground Zero. ... Nothing is more admirable about this country in the rest of the world's eyes than the big-shouldered unflappable confidence demonstrated in that speech."
Protestant churches have both bad and good members. Some (i.e., televangelists) pervert the Christian faith with their promising miracles while bilking their followers for their money. Some even preach violence and pray for death of the those they do not like. Where is the protest against these Protestant expressions of "religious freedom"?
Britt Towery, Free-lance writer. San Angelo resident, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org