Several months ago I watched a documentary on television, Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech. The documentary profiled several cases that challenged the hell out of me…incidents where people said things that go against everything I believe in and yet their very act of saying them demonstrates something I believe so very much in - freedom of speech.
At the end of the documentary I was drained and inspired…disturbed and empowered.
Gawd, I love a good documentary film!
Anyhoo, I was reminded of those feelings and that documentary when I read the news that some residents of Murfreesboro Tennessee oppose the building of a new Islamic Center near town. The congregation of the current center has outgrown it’s home and seeks to expand in a new center and some residents are fiercely opposed to that plan.
If people opposed the new Islamic Center because plans violate local building codes or threaten a protected wetland it would be one thing…but folks have voiced opposition based on the fact that the center will be an Islamic center.
Some have called it a training center for terrorists…there have been incidents of vandalism at the planned site of the new center…and there was even a call for a boycott of any business that works on construction of the new center.
A local Tea Party candidate running for Congress even went so far as to call Islam a political system designed to enforce Sharia Law and not a religion.
Americans have the right to engage in public displays of absolute ignorance. I’ll defend that any day…because I want to protect my right to engage in public displays of brilliance (wink).
But people do not have the right to use government as a weapon to deny others the right to religious freedom ‘cause of an intellectually lazy and bigoted fear of all things associated with the religion of Islam.
There’s this thing called the 1st Amendment to the Constitution...the one that prohibits government from impeding the free exercise of religion and protects our right to peaceably assemble.
That same amendment prohibits government from infringing on free speech…and I can’t get over how sad it is that those folks in Mufreesboro who oppose the building of a new Islamic center are exercising one part of the 1st Amendment to demand county officials violate another part of that same amendment.
Sad, but not surprising...when we pull back the scab of tolerance we often find the festering infection of bigotry.
And that is as American as people working to deny freedom ‘cause they claim that they want to protect freedom.