Muslim at prayer. Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons, Vince Millett

Someone make it stop. Make the assault on one of the basic tenets of our society – religious freedom – stop. Someone please shove a sock in the mouths of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Joe Liberman, New York Rep. Rick Lazio or any other commentator or politician trying to score points in the name of “sensitivity” or “honor.”

Just so you know, I’m not giving up my conservative cred, but just calling out the shrill cries, bloviating and selective application of the Constitution surrounding the construction of an Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero.

The very first words of the Bill of Rights reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” I understand this to mean that our government will not create a state-sanctioned religion nor impede the practice of any religion.

Which brings me to a new Islamic center proposed by Iman Feisal Abdul Rauf. His organizations, the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, plan to build a $100 million, 13-story building to house a prayer space, 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, restaurant and offices two blocks north of where the twin towers stood. Rauf said he wants the center to help “bridge and heal a divide” between Muslims and other religions.

After months of protesters claiming an Islamic center so close to the site of the greatest terrorist attack in our nation’s history is insensitive, vulgar, obscene and an affront to patriotic Americans, the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission voted unanimously last Tuesday to condemn the 130-year old building currently in place. The ASMA has cleared another hurdle toward the construction of its cultural center.

Unfortunately, the commission’s decision will not quiet the blowhards calling for the demise of this project.

Limbaugh and Lazio will continue to argue that the idea of Muslims meeting to worship within the shadow of the 9-11 site is a “victory flag for the terrorists.” Newt Gingrich and Palin have called the idea offensive and the Anti-Defemation League has opposed the mosque, distressing supporters of the long-time civil rights organization.

“Sacrilegious”; “Don’t Glorify Murderers of 3,000″; ” No 9/11 Victory Mosque.” These are just a few of the signs protesters have carried while picketing public hearings about the proposed center.

“High up in the air you have a 13-story mosque, outshining the memorial itself,” Bill Doyle, the father of a 9-11 victim, said. “It’s almost a slap in the face.”

Others have attacked Iman Rauf because he said in an interview with60 Minutes that  America had to take some of the responsibility for the attacks based on foreign policies which have harmed others. Questions as to where Rauf will obtain the funds to build the Islamic center have also become fodder for the talking heads. Heaven forbid he may receive funding from religious people in Saudi Arabia, Yemen or Kuwait.

Rauf has explained that he has worked his entire life to bring Muslims and the West together and there has to be understanding between the two sides to foster peace and acceptance.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has set an example of tolerance, saying that as Americans we would betray our values if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else.

“To cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists and we should not stand for that,” Bloomberg said. “The attack was an act of war — and our first responders defended not only our city but also our country and our Constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms the terrorists attacked.”

One of those constitutional rights the first responders, innocent travelers and World Trade Center employees died for is the freedom of religion. Our nation was founded on the concept of religious freedom, the ability to worship in our own manner, without interference from the king, prince or lord.

For politicians, citizens and commentators to call for the outright blockage of a religious sanctuary because some followers of a faith-system committed a heinous crime opens up a Pandora’s Box that could eventually affect how you and I choose to worship.

Conditions on the construction of a religious facility due to zoning concerns are acceptable, as long as those zoning issues are equally applied to businesses or individuals building in a community. Conditions based on ideology or feelings are arbitrary and have no place in the considerations of government officials.

Thankfully the leaders in New York City did the right thing. They upheld the tenets of religious freedom and realized that barring Muslims from worship near Ground Zero simply due to the perverted actions of 19 men who claimed to represent their faith flies in the face of what America is all about.

Remember that as you worship this morning, wherever and however you choose to do so.

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