Holy Ground

This is in response to the following nytimes article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/31/nyregion/31mosque.html?_r=1&hp

This is the most obvious and disgusting act of mass American religious bigotry I’ve ever witnessed. A simple test show this quite plainly: would Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich be all up in arms if this were going to be a Christian community center? As opponents of the center would readily admit, the sticking point is that this is specifically a Muslim center. I can’t believe people are feeling patriotic offense at this. My reaction to them is utter patriotic disgust; I’m ashamed to be their fellow countrymen.

What people need to understand about 9/11 is that it was not Islam that attacked America. This is certainly not the story that we want the Muslim world, consisting of 1 billion followers, to buy into. If anything, the War on Terror should be trying to defeat the idea in the minds of the rest of the world that America and Islam are somehow natural enemies. Unfortunately, we seem to be losing that battle here at home, leaving little chance of succeeding elsewhere.

We should be touting this as a defiant act of American strength, that in the face of a vicious attack, we will not abandon our most sacred principles, religious freedom being chief among them. Instead, we are profaning the values we claim to hold most dear. If what the terrorists seek to destroy America by attacking our freedoms, we seem to be doing their work for them.

In the process, we seem to have forgotten our own history. Indeed, it was the earliest Pilgrims from Europe who were driven to our shores because of religious intolerance. They did not want to leave their home country, but faced with religious persecution, the had little choice. It was their faith that gave them the strength to make was was then a treacherous journey across the Atlantic. When they arrived, they were greeted by an unforgiving wilderness. Many of them lost their lives along the way, struggling extraordinarily and steadfastly in the name of their faith.

Our Founding Fathers honored their struggle when they adopted the first Amendment, which enshrined religious freedom in the supreme law of the land. They hoped this would prevent future generations from suffering the intolerance that their forbears had to endure. Fast forward to 2010, and we seem to have completely forgotten not only the Pilgrims’ struggles, but our very own Constitution, which continues to form the basis of our most important civic institutions. While I’m greatly troubled by the vitriol being spouted by our politicians, the ability of their words to rally the people strikes fear into my heart.

Most disappointing of all is the Anti-Defamation League, a group that I once regarded as a vanguard against religious bigotry. If that weren’t bad enough, they readily admit that people’s negative reaction is based on irrational emotions. People might not be able to help their irrational emotions, but that doesn’t mean those emotions have their place in the public square; moreover, groups such as the Anti-Defamation League should be appealing to our better selves, rather than legitimizing acts that offend our values, history, and the Constitution. It defeats their whole purpose.

Surely, our Founding Fathers are turning in their graves at this moment, as well as all those who died in the fight to make and keep this country free.

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