|Photo 'Symbols of Islam' by dcubillas, stock.xchng|
Oh yes, I'm going to get political now. If you decide(d) to follow my blog, you'll see that I am quite an eclectic person with a wide range of interests and opinions. Today, I would like to share with you my thoughts on the 'Ground Zero Mosque' controversy.
Before I 'explain' the first part of the Bill of Rights, I would like to state a few facts. Firstly, the proposed building is not solely a mosque, it is a cultural center, containing amongst other things a swimming pool, basketball court, restaurant, bookstore, and- here it comes- a place of worship, a mosque. Secondly, it is not to be built at the site of the World Trade Center, it is to be erected a few blocks away. Thirdly, it will not be the only Islamic place of worship in lower Manhattan- several others already exist. Lastly, it is not being built by a terrorist organization.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's take a look at the First Amendment of the US Constitution:
"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."
The main focus has to be put on the very first part of this sentence. I was asked by a lady the other day to put this into plain English for her (yes, she is an American citizen, has lived here her whole life, and has a college degree...), so I will try to put it as simply as possible: The government (aka Congress, made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate) is not allowed to decide who may practice their religion, or how, or where. They are not allowed to have any say in the matter. Ever.
So, I ask you, why is there even a discussion about the proposed cultural center? The Constitution doesn't leave any room for doubt- anybody is allowed to erect a place of worship wherever they choose. End of story.
But of course, as you have all noticed, this is not the end of the story. There have to be multiple heated discussions on the topic, people calling each other heartless and unpatriotic, etc. Strangely enough, most people I have spoken to who think the 'mosque' should be forbidden are the same who shouted 'Unconstitutional' when the new Healthcare Reform bill was passed. Nobody was ever able to tell me exactly what part of the Constitution the bill was going against, but that is another matter. It's just very interesting to me to see people acknowledging rights granted to them in the First Amendment, yet those same people being utterly unwilling to have these rights granted to their fellow citizens because they have different religious beliefs from them. Let's not forget, these Muslims are American citizens, not foreigners!
The importance of religious freedom becomes absolutely clear when you realize that it was the very first thing the authors of the Bill of Rights felt they had to mention. The very First of the ten Amendments, at the very beginning. Thank goodness, the Constitution, like the good lady Justice, is blind and cannot take anyone's feelings into account. I sincerely hope that this issue will be resolved quickly and I no longer have to read uneducated, biased nonsense calling for the government to ignore the First Amendment just this once.