Friday, August 20, 2010

Precious religious freedom

We should always cherish the freedom that we enjoy here in our country, and included in that freedom is the religious liberty we have at our disposal.

It is easy for people of faith to take for granted just how good we have it here. The only obstacle that we face when it comes to attending a worship service is our own willingness or lack of willingness to go. Complacency can be a mighty foe, and all too often, we let it get the best of us.

Of course, our nation's religious liberty has not always come easy. Just about every major religious group has faced some kind of hardship or opposition during its history. I will not go into much detail on that fact, but if a person disagrees, simply 'Google' it on the Internet and a massive amount of information will be presented.

We see this struggle play out in many different ways. Currently, we have seen controversies involving Muslims wanting to open cultural centers and mosques. The most prominent of these disputes have been efforts to open a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City.

'Ground Zero' is the term commonly applied to the site where Islamic terrorists attacked the World Trade Center complex on Sept. 11, 2001. Approximately 3,000 people died and many oppose putting a mosque in that area because they feel it is insensitive to the families who lost loved ones.

Though the sensitivities of the families are important, I do not see any legal reason to prevent the opening of the mosque. If the people proposing the facility have followed the regulations of New York, then they have every right to put a mosque there.

As Newsweek magazine put it recently: 'Does being American mean holding the personal pain of some above the constitutional rights of others...?' It is a fair question, but a person or group's constitutional rights still have to be protected even in an emotionally charged situation like this.

However, are the people proposing the mosque being insensitive? Yes. The people behind this effort had to have known that they would be walking into a storm of controversy. If they did not, then they were being remarkably naïve, but I believe they knew what they were doing.

The discussion we have seen on this has been a fascinating example of the 'marketplace of ideas' in action. Both sides have been under a lot of scrutiny but have done a good job getting their points across.

Of course, there have been some fringe elements that have engaged in rhetoric that has been regrettable, but that is to be expected these days. I will not single any of those people out because I do not want to give them publicity.

I will say this though. We should all be wary of anybody who advocates violence when it comes to dealing with this situation (or others like it). Personal disagreement and civil disobedience have their place, but when it comes to destruction, don't you know that you can count me out.

The bottom line is America is a melting pot. Throughout our history, our strength has come from our diversity. Islam is a faith that concerns many right now because of what we read in the newspaper and watch on television.

I share the concerns that a lot of people have. A casual look at Islamic governments around the world shows that most of them are hard line. Being a woman in those countries must be unpleasant.

However, the United States is a country that emphasizes democracy.

And part of being a democracy includes dealing with issues that are complicated.

No comments: