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article imageOp-Ed: Should a mosque be built near Ground Zero?

By Frank Kaufmann     Aug 20, 2010 in World
New York - One can only be concerned over the politicization of the controversy surrounding plans to build an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the World Trade Center.
Elected officials have gone on record opposing the development of a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.
I am surprised.
I am not surprised that the Sienna College poll shows that 63 percent of New York voters oppose the project. Voters have no obligation to be familiar with the Constitution of the United States (though it wouldn't be a bad idea if we were). But I always thought that elected officials and those formally entrusted with political leadership were supposed to be familiar with the constitution of the United States.
So far as I know, the first amendment to the US Constitution has not been been repealed. For those hearing about either the US Constitution, or the first amendment for the first time, here is a little background. It is the first part of what are called the Bill of Rights. The first amendment was ratified December 15, 1791. It reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." A few years before that, some of the same folk responsible for these radical ideas also penned something called The Declaration of Independence. There we discover that the United States of America was founded on other similarly nutty notions like: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Americans have agreed to live in concert with these views for over 230 years. The ideas are not new.
Again, though not a lawyer, I believe it is legal to be Muslim in America. How is it then that people who enjoy the trust of citizens to have authority over us and to lead us according to the laws of the land are taking positions against the US constitution?
Do I like Islam? I like some things about it. Does that matter? No. The rights guaranteed Americans are not contingent upon whether I like people, or their religion. Do I think a mosque near Ground Zero is a good idea? I happen to like places of worship. And as I've said in prior writing, it would be nice for Muslim families who lost their loved ones who had gone to work in the World Trade Towers on 9/11 to have a place to pray in their memory. But does it matter if a mosque 2 blocks from Ground Zero is a good idea or not? No. The Constitution of the United States was not written to be ignored when people don't like something, or when people have bad ideas. It was written to guaranty what the framers agreed are inalienable rights. I am disappointed when elected officials are willing to ignore and violate the constitution of the United States, even if a given elected official happens to dislike some other American's religion.
Now. What if preachers in the mosque spew dangerous teachings and hatred of America. Well, curiously enough the very same amendment (the very first amendment) also guarantees American citizens freedom of speech. Sadly our wonderful country is full of people inciting hatred against our great country and its people (many of whom have died protecting the rights of these ingrates to say what they like). This is an enormously challenging part of the first amendment, but for some reason (indeed for the noblest of reasons) we have chosen to uphold this right for Americans for the past 230 years. It is really a bad idea to chose to stop now, even if you don't like somebody's religion.
So. "Is building a mosque two blocks from ground zero a good idea?" is not the right question (at least not the right question if one is trying to decide whether or not it should be permitted). The right questions are these: "Is it legal to be Muslim in America?" and "Has the 1st amendment of the US Bill of Rights been repealed?" Frankly I am a little afraid when elected officials are willing to ignore or violate the US Constitution. What if tomorrow someone doesn't like my religion? And the day after that the governor doesn't like your religion? Want to block the development of a mosque at 45 Park Place? Zone the area so that no places of worship may be permitted anywhere within a two block radius of Ground Zero. Oops, what are we going to do with St. Paul's Chapel, opened in 1766, Manhattan's oldest public building in continuous use - a place where George Washington worshiped and 9/11 recovery workers received round-the-clock care. Part of the Episcopal Parish of Trinity Church, St. Paul's is a center for worship and the arts, a community of reconciliation, and a place of pilgrimage for all people. For me one of the most glorious buildings in America. I think it would be great if the mosque leaders outdid St. Paul's in love and pride for America. That would be wonderful, but wonderful or not, it's not a condition to be protected by the the Constitution.
So far we Americans get a little touchy when people bomb us. That's understandable. But it is bad enough that the lives of our precious brothers and sisters were lost, and our buildings burned to the ground in the villainy on 9/11. Not our constitution now, too?
In 1988, Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation on behalf of the U.S. government, which apologized for the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942. The legislation stated that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership". Over $1.6 billion in reparations were later disbursed by the U.S. government to Japanese Americans who had either suffered internment or were heirs of those who had suffered internment.
Stalwart leaders faithful to our Bill of Rights is our true badge of honor and of courage.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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