Religious freedom supported in the heart of Dixie? Who woulda thunk it? Of course, religious people, even those in antithetical outgroups like Muslims in America, are less hated than those who believe in nothing at all. At least Muslims, believers might say, believe in something, which for some reason is viewed as better than not believing in anything, although both Christians and Muslims believe in their something without any supporting evidence.
Tolerance and acceptance of atheism in the South will be the last fig leaf to fall. And it will. It’s just a matter of when.
Haynes: Religious freedom trumps Islamophobia
By Charles C. Haynes
After four years of protests, lawsuits, vandalism, arson and a bomb threat, American Muslims in Murfreesboro, Tenn., can finally celebrate the power of religious freedom to triumph over hate and fear — at least in the courts.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court put an end to a lawsuit filed in 2010 challenging the permit issued by Rutherford County for construction of an Islamic Center near the city of Murfreesboro. By declining to hear the case, the High Court let stand a Tennessee Court of Appeals decision in favor of county officials. Opponents of the mosque — convinced that Muslims are a threat to their community — had tried various tactics to halt construction of the Islamic Center. In a last-ditch legal maneuver, they filed suit, charging that the county had given inadequate public notice of a meeting to approve the site plan for the Center.
Now the Supreme Court has put an end to the legal drama — and the Islamic Center is in Murfreesboro to stay. A remaining lawsuit — this one challenging the right of the Islamic Center to build a cemetery — remains to be resolved. But supporters of the mosque are optimistic that the courts will soon dismiss this final legal challenge.
Of course, history teaches that court victories don’t change minds and hearts overnight. Muslims in Murfreesboro have their new Islamic Center thanks to local officials doing the right thing, but they still face prejudice from those convinced that Islam has no place in America.
What’s heartening about this saga, however, is how local government officials stood up for religious freedom. Despite strong public opposition, members of the county planning commission voted to treat the building application of the Muslim community like applications from any other religious community.
That took courage. At the height of the conflict, political candidates and anti-Muslim activists worked hard to whip up opposition to the Islamic Center in Murfreesboro and beyond. Even televangelist Pat Robertson weighed in, suggesting that county officials may have fallen victim to Muslims’ “ability to bribe folks” and warning of a future Muslim takeover of the city council.
But through it all, county officials stood firm. Moreover, many local religious groups rallied in support of the Muslim community. Students at Middle Tennessee State University helped form Middle Tennesseans for Religious Freedom, a grassroots effort to counter anti-mosque protests. And the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty — one of the nation’s most effective defenders of free exercise of religion for all — provided legal support.
Despite this good news out of Tennessee, Islamophobia remains a national problem thanks to a cottage industry of anti-Muslim groups working to conflate terrorism and Islam in the minds of the American people.
“Anti-Sharia bills” are pending in at least 10 state legislatures — all of them motivated by anti-Muslim bias and based on a distorted understanding of both Islamic and American law. (For an accurate understanding of Sharia in America, see “What is the truth about American Muslims?” at www.religiousfreedomcenter.org.)
If past is prologue, however, Islamophobia in our country will fade as American Muslims become more visible in places like Murfreesboro. We have been down this road before. Not so very long ago, anti-Catholic hatred was at its height in Murfreesboro — and across America. As described by Bob Smietana in the Tennessean, in 1929 angry residents of Murfreesboro marched to the courthouse trying to block the construction of the town’s first Catholic Church.
Today some 2,000 families are members of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Murfreesboro. Religious freedom trumped anti-Catholicism 80 years ago — and religious freedom, if we work at it, will trump Islamophobia today.
We may have a distance to go, but we have come a long way. Consider that six of the current nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court — the very court that put an end to the fight to against the building of a mosque in Murfreesboro — are Roman Catholics.
Only in America.
Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute in Washington, D.C.
For at least five years, ever since the Tea Party’s primordial stew was being swirled and mixing into something resembling a coherent platform, I have been highlighting the various ideological inconsistencies with this movement’s noxious approach to politics.
Back in April 2009 when the Tea Party supporters were anachronistically parading around in Thomas Paine uniforms, I highlighted the “idiocy of this generation” and foreshadowed things to come. As I said at the time:
And here we come to the hang of it all: the very reason why the Republican ideals of personal liberty and small government married to notions of moral uprightness do not work. Many on the right attempt to coerce folks in leadership or pray for them or lobby them or whatever on social issues like abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research, hoping federal or state governments would, indeed, solve our problems. They believe federal and state governments can and should solve what they perceive to be our social ills. Government should preserve the institution of marriage. It should uphold certain moral codes that would prohibit heinous dabblings in abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Government should get drugs off the streets and prosecute drug dealers to the fullest extent of the law. State laws should keep the sabbath holy by disallowing the purchase of alcohol on Sunday (and in some states, disallowing even retail purchases before 1 p.m.!) Government should more fully represent our moral values, they say.
And in the same breath, what do we see? The same folks turn an about-face, and speak out against gun control, against big business regulations and against taxes. Thus, they favor big government in some areas and those of moral or social concerns, but not others like taxes or gun control. But they can’t have it both ways, and the logic just does not add up. Small government taken to its fullest end would mean this: the legalization of controlled substances, the continued or even a relaxing of gun control laws, allowing states to decide gay rights, relaxing regulations on abortion and stem cell research and some states disbanning their ridiculous blue laws. True, big government would mean the opposite. But both Dems and Reps want to pick and choose which causes they will champion.
Unfortunately, this idiocy has only continued and has even been amplified in some ways, as Tea Party politicians in Washington have now framed the political discourse between themselves, always on the right side of history of course, and establishment, insider Republicans who they say have a tenuous grasp about the will of the American people and do not have the nation’s best interests at heart. While all of this bickering among officials within the same party is highly entertaining in one sense, and deeply disappointing in another, this toxic atmosphere has engendered all sorts of kookery, not the least of which is politicians calling for the evisceration of the public education system and other federal offices to would-be politicians, like Oklahoma House of Representatives Tea Party candidate, Scott Esk, who has claimed we would be totally justified, on license from the Old Testament, if we started stoning gay people, noting on his website:
I look forward to applying Biblical principles to Oklahoma law.
While it’s fortunate that Esk is only running for a state post and not a seat in the federal government, firebrands like Sean Hannitty, Mark Levin, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin are partially to blame for creating the type of anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-government far-right wing of the Republican Party that emboldens Esk and his ilk, but it is the easily-led, fearful, spineless American voters who are to blame for allowing it to flourish.
These days, seemingly the only thing that can bring Congress together in a bipartisan fashion is veterans. Lawmakers, especially Republicans, trip over themselves to come out in support of helping veterans, but routinely fail to risk their own political capital to assist nearly all other segments of the population, including sick people shackled with medical debt, immigrants, women, gays, etc.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell admitted as much when recently speaking about a bipartisan health care bill for vets:
We have a bipartisan veterans bill negotiated the way we used to do business in the Senate, with members of both parties, ready to go.
“The way we used to do …” Enough said.
Read more here: House, Senate move to improve health care for vets.
Although he should have been talking about climate change five years ago, it’s good to see Obama siding with science and advocating for a price on carbon. Better late than never. Here’s a preview from Tom Friedman’s interview on Showtime:
I particularly liked Friedman’s example about climate change deniers in Congress consulting the 97 percent of doctors who may diagnose their children, but on climate change, they want to consult the other 3 percent minority. This, I have found also, applies to religion, but instead, the percentages are more like 99-to-1, as Christians and other believers, despite 99 percent of scientists being in agreement about evolution and the inadequacy of creationism to explain our world, they still trust the dissenting 1 percent, and without any evidence all the while.
Andrew Sullivan from over at The Dish received an anonymous email from a self-proclaimed pedophile who said that while he has never acted on his attraction to children and is “committed to never doing so,” his sexual persuasion, like that of his “non-offending” pedophiles, is nonetheless innate.
Sullivan calls the following a “predicament” for these so-called Virtuous Pedophiles, which is a quote from the group’s website:
We do not choose to be attracted to children, and we cannot make that attraction go away. But we can resist the temptation to abuse children sexually, and many of us present no danger to children whatsoever. Yet we are despised for having a sexual attraction that we did not choose, cannot change, and successfully resist. This hatred has its consequences; many of us suffer from depression and sometimes even commit suicide. Paradoxically, the hatred actually increases the risk of child sexual abuse by making us afraid to admit our condition to others, thus discouraging us from seeking treatment. More of us could lead productive, happy, law-abiding lives if we could open up to people who would treat us not as monsters but as human beings with an unfortunate burden to bear.
Of course, we can all be glad that they don’t act on their attractions, but I see a couple things that are problematic.
First, we have fairly strong evidence to suggest that sexual orientation is genetic, and this makes sense since we see same-sex — well, sex — in other parts of the animal kingdom. Pedophilia, however, is classified as a psychosexual disorder that usually grows out of any number of types of abuse or neglect in a person’s past:
The underlying cause of pedophilia is unclear. Although biological abnormalities such as hormone imbalance may contribute to the disorder in some individuals, biological factors have not been proved as causes. In many cases pedophilic behaviour appears to be associated with sexual abuse or neglect experienced during childhood and with stunted emotional or psychological development. Research also has indicated that boys who were sexually abused are more likely to become pedophiles or sex offenders. − Encyclopaedia Britannica
Second, can a person really be described as “virtuous” for merely refusing to succumb to their desire to have sex with children? Modern humans are generally attracted to money, and from our youth we learn that if we have enough of it, we can buy things that can make us happy, even if its a shallow form of happiness. Do we call people who don’t rob banks or commit fraud virtuous? Every day, humans choose not to act on their desire to sleep with their friends’ wives. They have no control over who they are attracted to; yet would we call these people virtuous for not committing adultery when every fiber in their loins tells them otherwise? More than a few Catholic priests are apparently attracted to children. I realize some of them may have acted on it, but surely many closeted priestly pedophiles have successfully eschewed their longing for children. What about people who are into bestiality or forced sexual slavery? Are these folks just virtuous if they don’t act on their morally reprehensible inclinations?
I realize this group of pedophiles describes their plight as an “unfortunate burden to bear,” but people refuse to act on their desires every day for the betterment of society as a whole, and we don’t necessary applaud them for it or bestow them with anymore respect. It’s simply part of being a responsible adult. We all bear burdens.
It’s like the old schtick from Chris Rock about parenthood:
You know the worst thing about niggas? Niggas always want credit for some shit they supposed to do. A nigga will brag about some shit a normal man just does. A nigga will say some shit like, “I take care of my kids.” You’re supposed to, you dumb motherfucker! What kind of ignorant shit is that? “I ain’t never been to jail!” What do you want, a cookie?! You’re not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation-having motherfucker!
Let the good news go forth:
This billboard should read: “The Holy Bible: We think its inspired, but we don’t really know for sure. We think its absolute and final, but we don’t know that either.” Since all of that probably wouldn’t fit on a billboard, a more pithy one might read: “The Holy Bible: Falsely teaching faith as a virtue for 2,000 years.”
I also like how the specific verse in the lengthy Psalm 119 is covered by a tree limb. Must be a sign from God.