The Ground Zero Mosque and the Hobgoblin of Little American Minds


Emerson was wrong.

It is not foolish consistences which plague little minds. It is foolish inconsistencies. One of them has to do with our current notion that government is gradually encroaching on our freedoms. The NRA frets about gun rights (in spite of the fact that they have been expanded, not restricted under Barack Obama). Liberals agonize about the loss of due process as Miranda rights are restricted and the government expands its demands on internet providers to give them more private information under the rubric of “homeland security.” But when it comes to allowing the government to restrict religion and abridge the free exercise thereof, a growing number of people, of all political stripes think that’s perfectly fine. Especially if there are sectarian movements in that religion which promote terrorism against the United States.

Leading national “conservatives” (as truly useless a term as “liberal,” since neither of them mean any more than which news outlets you believe), are demanding that a house of worship not be built near the site of the September 11 World Trade Center attack in Manhattan, despite the fact that the congregation wishes to build it as a sign of peace, not war. I’m talking about the “Ground Zero Mosque” of course.

On his website the other day, Newt Gingrich wrote “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” Sarah Palin famously coined a new word when she asked American Muslims to “refudiate” the mosque. The cabal that runs right-wing cable news and talk radio are frothing at the mouth.

What they all forget is that it really doesn’t matter what the laws are in Muslim countries or how intolerant Wahabbist Muslims are. This is the United States of America. We have a Constitution guranteeing that “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.”

In New York, the State Constitution, Article 1, Section 3, promises: “The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed in this state to all humankind; and no person shall be rendered incompetent to be a witness on account of his or her opinions on matters of religious belief; but the liberty of conscience hereby secured shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify practices inconsistent with the peace or safety of this state.”

The foolish inconsistency of fearing government regulation of insurance companies and banks while clamoring for government prohibition on the free exercise of religion is the hobgoblin of little minded Americans. Actually, it’s only one of them. Like carping about deficits while demanding tax cuts for the rich or blowing a trillion dollars on quixotic imperial quests. Or saying “government is the problem not the solution,” while demanding larger and stronger military and security appratus. (I shouldn’t have to point out that the military and national security are operated by the government, but I probably do.)

The only more foolish than these inconsistencies would be electing or re-electing the people who promote them.

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