The First Amendment to the United States Constitution clearly protects our freedom to worship and freedom to associate. Our founders and those before them came here to the New World in an attempt to eschew religion-based discrimination, and pointedly telling any group–Muslim or otherwise–where they can and cannot congregate absent a truly compelling government interest would be reminiscent of the behavior that drove the exodus from points abroad four hundred years ago.
Furthermore, to enjoin by act of law the Muslim group from constructing its “community center” in lower Manhattan would be improper. Such an action could even be construed as an unconstitutional taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment, though the fact that the regulation would not deprive the building site of all economically viable use would lean against such a determination.
Therefore, when President Barack Obama said on Friday that Muslims “have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country” and that they also have the right “to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan,” he’s absolutely right. Was Obama technically correct when he said that “our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable” and that “people of all faiths are welcome” and “will not be treated differently by their government” here in America? Of course he was. Forget for a moment that this president has consistently shown himself to favor Islam at the expense of other faiths, that the statements were made at a White House dinner celebrating Ramadan, that he sent $900 million to Hamas in the wake of its terrorist attacks against Israel, or that this administration and others like it have rarely held respect for the notion of private property — standing alone, such a statement is absolutely, positively correct.
But that doesn’t make it right.
Three thousand Americans lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Thousands more American families were directly affected by the terrorist attacks, and all of us felt it to one degree or another. Everything changed on that bright, crystal clear Tuesday morning. Barack Obama, as president of the United States, as chief executive for all Americans and not simply those still uninformed or embittered enough to vote in his favor, needs to understand that. A better response to the question of whether or not he and his office supports the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan may surely have come from someone that a great many people do not feel is qualified to fill the office of the bumbling fool from Chicago. Sarah Palin had this to say:
Mr. President, should they or should they not build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people? Please tell us your position. We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they? And, no, this is not above your pay grade. If those who wish to build this Ground Zero mosque are sincerely interested in encouraging positive “cross-cultural engagement” and dialogue to show a moderate and tolerant face of Islam, then why haven’t they recognized that the decision to build a mosque at this particular location is doing just the opposite? Mr. President, why aren’t you encouraging the mosque developers to accept Governor Paterson’s generous offer of assistance in finding a new location for the mosque on state land if they move it away from Ground Zero? Why haven’t they jumped at this offer? Why are they apparently so set on building a mosque steps from what you have described, in agreement with me, as “hallowed ground”?
This isn’t a matter of “right,” as much as it is a matter of “should.” But President Obama has often found himself in political trouble when offering up his personal opinion. The police officers in Cambridge, Massachusetts “acted stupidly.” The people of western Pennsylvania do little more than “cling to their guns and their religion.” Sometimes, it seems, people “at a certain point” have “made enough money.” So I can understand his reticence to explain his personal perspective.
In fact, a piece posted just this morning from Bloomberg shows that said reticence is 100 percent intentional. From his family vacation along the Gulf Coast–where the president says that the water is safe but refuses to swim in it–the president reinforced the “right” but stated unequivocally that he would not comment on the “should.”
“I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there,” Obama said yesterday in Panama City, Florida, during a trip with his family to the Gulf of Mexico. “I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding. That is what our country is about.”
The problem, however, is that without express explanation otherwise, we can only assume–and safely so–that this president stands in opposition to the will of the people he governs and hopes to rule. As it stands now, 64 percent of Americans oppose the construction of the mosque, far more than the 43 percent who strongly disapprove of Barack Obama’s job performance as a whole. What reason should we have that President Obama’s personal opinion would fall otherwise with regard to this particular issue?
Despite having the right to do so, and aside from all questions of forensic accounting and inflammatory statements, the Muslim group should not build its mosque and community center in lower Manhattan. Congressman Peter King calls it “insensitive” and “uncaring,” and maintains that the group is “needlessly offending” a great many people in New York City. I agree. And so should this president.
I understand that President Obama has made it so much a part of his mission to reach out to the Islamic community that he even has NASA on the job. I understand that. Instead, by not explaining otherwise, he finds himself standing firmly in favor of an act of defiance which will inevitably push deeper a wedge between Islam and the west, and will in the process spit in the face of those who lost their lives and those whose lives were changed forever on that crisp fall morning in 2001.