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It’s ironic that a country founded, in large part, on the concept of religious freedom is now divided sharply over the practice of that freedom.
The politically-manufactured controversy over announced plans to build a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center is so contrived that the truth is buried in hyperbole, misinformation and outright lies.
If you believe the bombastic Newt Gingrich, the plans call for a mosque to be built “on” the site. In fact, the mosque is proposed on private property in the vicinity of the site and can’t even be seen from ground zero.
Even worse, Republicans — the party controlled by the rabid religious right-wing — have turned comments by President Barack Obama into a p0litical zoo.
Last week, Obama said religious freedom — the freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution — gives Muslims the right to to build a mosque anywhere they want as long as they own the land and have the proper permits.
That’s all he said. He didn’t say he supports the plan. He just said he supports religious freedom.
That simple statement opened the door for nutcases, political opportunists and others to turn the matter into a distracting controversy that has little to do with truth and everything to do with the root problem with current political debate in this country.
As in war, truth is the first casualty of politics. Gingrich, whose pronouncements long ago turned into verbal diarrhea, led the GOP charge away from the truth and into the morass of political fear-mongering.
In fact, Islam had nothing to do with the attacks. A lot of Muslims died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The attacks were planned and directed by a religious fanatic who twisted the Islam faith to serve his own terrorist agenda.
Religious fanatics have always misquoted their faiths to serve their needs. Klansmen quote the bible to rationalize their bigotry. Pat Robertson bastardizes Christianity to attempt to justify his shameless claims that natural disasters are “God’s will” and punishment for sinners. The late Jerry Falwell misused religion in a laughable attempt to legitimize his homophobia.
American Presidents have declared war and killed in the name of God. George W. Bush claimed his fanatical foray into Iraq was done because God wanted him to do it.
If you don’t accept Barack Obama’s statement that religious freedom gives Muslims the right to erect a mosque in downtown Manhattan then you don’t accept one of the basic tenets of America.
Freedom is not, and cannot be, selective. Blocking construction of a mosque is a threat to the freedoms that once defined this nation. If it is blocked, we will become the tyrants that our forefathers founded this country to defy.