When Did We Forget the Bill of Rights?

There is a great deal of furor going on about the proposed building of an Islamic community center and mosque a short distance away from the World Trade Center site in New York City.  On Friday, President Obama made a public statement about the issue, pointing our that “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.”

Republicans jumped right on him, accusing the President of “pandering to radical Islam” and saying he “caved in to political correctness.” 

I’d like to ask the Republican leaders a simple question: When did you stop supporting the Bill of Rights?


In case there’s any confusion out there, or Americans who didn’t get civics lessons because their teachers were busy ensuring no child got left behind, let’s quickly review what the Bill of Rights is.  Namely, the Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, and came into effect in December 1791. They include such “golden oldies” as the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Bill of Rights is about our civil liberties.  It is about our freedom, the freedom for which men and women in uniform are fighting and dying.  Protecting our civil liberties is not “pandering to radical Islam” or “caving into political correctness.”  Denying our civil liberties plays into the hands of terrorists, letting those who would undermine American values, win.

Conservatives go on and on about the importance of upholding the Constitution.  Their claim is that President Obama has been “trampling” the Constitution throughout his first 20 months in office.  But suddenly, when he explicitly upholds the Constitutional rights of Muslims to build a place of worship on private land, these “staunch defenders” of the Constitution are nowhere to be seen.

Let’s give credit to Flordia Governor Charlie Crist, the former Republican now running as an independent candidate for senator, who supported Obama’s statement.  Let’s give even more credit to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who actually led the way making a powerful speech in favor of religious freedom on August 3rd.  The video of this 7-minute speech is here.  Here’s the bit that I thought was most important:

“Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property, based on their particular religion?”

As we head into the midterm elections in November, before you make a decision about who deserves your vote, I’d ask that you take the time to ask the candidates whether or not they support the Bill of Rights.  Use this case of the New York City mosque as a litmus test, because there really is only one way to support the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution.  That’s to answer “no” to Mayor Bloomberg’s question: the government should not attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property, based on their particular religion.


0 thoughts on “When Did We Forget the Bill of Rights?

  1. Honesty would go along way toward this issue. Yes, the right to build it is a fact. However, it is not the responsible thing to build it. I have the right to call you many terrible names, but it would be irresponsible and insensitive and therefore render me wrong. Moderate Muslims by the thousands are saying that this Mosque – particularly the location of it, squarely is insensitive, and shows an uncaring for their neighbors– hence, it’s against the Koran and contrary to true Islamic faith. SO, for the cause of faith, there are also Muslims in protest of the location. What say you to that?

  2. @LoBornlytesThoughtPalace – Liberals aren’t un-American; and neither am I. Nor do I classify myself “a liberal.” But you are typically interested in labelling people you dislike into pigeon-holes, finger-pointing, name-calling, and obfuscating. Keep it up, it clearly works for you — if traffic is all you care about, the truth be at the wayside.

  3. @agnophilo –  Yes “Tao” can be short for “Taoism” as I wrote about in a previous post, however my screen name still doesn’t intentionally stake out any religious position. It is just wordplay on my full name.@jsolberg –  Thank you for your contribution to the discussion. I think there is plenty of room for disagreement while still remaining civil.@LoBornlytesThoughtPalace –  I think it would be fantastic if a Wal-Mart or a Christian Church were built there, although I find it funny that those are the two examples you came up with. When it comes to the government making land use decisions based on the religion of the owners, that’s not okay. Your BP example, while I appreciate your frustration, isn’t a property rights issue and it certainly isn’t an issue of the government making a decision about what can be done with private property based on the religion of the property owners, so let’s leave that for another discussion.

  4. @kunhuo42 –  With the clamor of silliness that follows in its wake, it is easy to see why, Aaron!@turningreen –  I am sorry for your losses, which I’m sure sting every bit as much today as they did nine years ago. Thank you for your civil contribution to the conversation.@TheCheshireGrins –  Thanks, Meg – hope you are taking good care of Dr. Zakiah.

  5. @ShamelesslyRed –  Thank you for adding to the civil discussion on this topic. Regarding your question of what I say about the fact that there are some Muslims who oppose the building of this project, I would ask you how that diminishes the owners’ right to build the mosque? My opinion is not based on whether this community center and mosque are popular with 100% of the population, including 100% of Muslims – which, after all, are no more homogeneous a group than any other – but whether 100% of the population should respect that, agree or disagree, the property owners have a constitutional right to build a place of worship there.That some Muslims agree or disagree is neither here nor there, just as it is neither here nor there if some Christians disagree with the people who peacefully assemble outside of Planned Parenthood to protest abortions that take place there. The rights of the protesters are not diminished.Thanks again for contributing to this conversation in a civil manner.

  6. @Diva_Jyoti –  Thank you.@haloed –  I can understand why some people are legitimately sensitive to the location of the mosque and community center so near a place they consider hallowed ground, but I agree with you that its location is immaterial in this matter.@LoBornlytesThoughtPalace –  That would be St. Nicholas Church, right? Not St. Michael. According to the Greek Orthodox Church Archdiocese’s website, it looks like the Archdiocese and the government are working together on reconstruction. Additionally, I don’t see any indication that the government’s decision regarding this reconstruction are based on the religion of the property owners.

  7. @LoBornlytesThoughtPalace –  Please don’t throw around the “un-American” label. Neither conservatives nor liberals have some exclusive ownership of being American. Citizenship and passports are not given out based on political affiliation thanks to the founding principles of our nation, including those enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

  8. @agnophilo –  I don’t publicize a particular religious affiliation because I don’t think my faith should be used as evidence to support or undermine an opinion I share on this blog. That sometimes happens in a heated political debate such as this one. Thanks for your understanding. Cheers!

  9. @christao408 – Yea…. riiiight lolYou don’t really think the government keeps itself accountable through a supposedly independent government agency do ya? Its all quite circular if you ask me. And that’s what I meant; it is just their nature to continually erode the ideas of freedom. The British tyrants might have gotten their smack down but that doesn’t mean we’ve not regressed nor that we’re worse off now than we were then. God Save King George! But I’m a real cynic when it comes to the government who is well set in his ways. I just get real amused by posts like this cause its like….well whattaya expect?

  10. @christao408 –  the question of legality has never been an issue. Is the building of the Mosque constitutional? Yes. Is it appropriate for a people of faith in light of the history there? No. Will it serve to further divide a people and create ill relations? Most likely. I say yet again, There is a constitutional right to do many things. Our freedom of speech is protected. My right however should not be used irresponsibly in a way that will harm another. The constitutional issue has never been the matter at hand. Only of the appropriate moral decision especially with regard that it will be a center of faith. Let me ask you another question. We have learned the hard way, that there is a faction of radical Islam that see’s us as the infidel worthy of death. When you have the leader of Hamas that today praises the building of the Mosque in Manhattan, and then you have thousands of Muslims who are calling this effort to build here–“radical” and against true Islamic faith, then do you think there is a possibility that the need to PC is trumping our moral compass on what is really appropriate for a nation still healing? The Arian faith nation is constitutionally protected group. They really have no public standing. But would you equally support the idea of erecting a monument to Hitler across the street from the Holocaust Museum? Because they would literally have the legal freedom to do so. While it’s an extreme example, I’m sure you understand my point.

  11. @ShamelesslyRed –  Actually, if an “Aryan Faith Nation” group (no idea what that is, but let’s use your example) wanted to build a place of worship – that’s what this inaccurately-named “ground zero mosque” is, a place of worship, not a monument – in a private building across the street from the Holocaust Museum, of course I would support the idea. Not because I support the group’s objectives but because I support their freedom of speech. Our liberties aren’t up for popular vote.You say that the constitutional issue is not the matter of hand, but that this is only about making the “appropriate moral decision”. Who gets to decide that, when the “appropriate moral decision” may infringe upon the liberties of a minority? That’s known as the tyranny of the majority and it is one of the reasons our Founding Fathers insisted on the passage of the Bill of Rights.Let’s look back at history as an example. What’s happening here is very similar to the anti-Catholic rhetoric that stained the United States from the first settlers at Jamestown through the mid-1800s. There was anti-Catholic mob violence in the 1840s, whipped up by claims that Catholics would destroy the culture of the United States. This nativist sentiment rears its ugly head from time to time throughout our history, always finding a new group against which to whip up fear. This time, it is “The Muslims” who are perceived as destroying our culture.Bringing up the opinion of the leader of Hamas, the opinion of “thousands” of Muslims, or the opinion of an old Hindu granny on the Isle of Wright, is irrelevant and lends no support to the idea that the rights of the property owners to build a place of worship in New York City can be undermined for no other reason than that the religion they practice is unpopular. Building the mosque there – let’s not forget that the property has already been used as a place of worship for a year now – has caused no material harm to anyone and there is no evidence that it will cause any material harm to anyone in the future.

  12. @ShamelesslyRed – Actually, using your example, they most likely wouldn’t have the right (since they wouldn’t be able to afford the price of property). However, if they somehow were able to purchase the piece of property across from the Holocaust Museum then yes, they would have the right to build what they want. I am not sure what you mean by Arian Faith Nation or Aryan Faith Nation since modern Neo-Nazis in the U.S. self-identify as Christian so they would, technically, be building a church.Like I said in my blog, this didn’t become an issue until the same person that said Malcom X was President Obama’s father decided it needed to be publicized. Even Fox News was in support of it in December. Funny that, huh?Should the existing Mosque be torn down since it is so close?

  13. @christao408 – I just heard on the radio today that St. Nicks (thanks for the correction) project has ended in failure.  And the Eastern Orthodox received ZERO consideration with regard to cutting through bureaucratic regulations, unlike the Islamic Jihad.Also, this issue is not a matter of religion, it’s about protecting American culture from radicals bend on destroying it.Additionally, Obama excoriated Israel for building settlements in Jerusalem because it was inflammatory.  Yet Israel has the perfect right to built settlements on its own land.Your leftist arguments are completely contradictory and arbitrary.

  14. @ShamelesslyRed – I do agree, however, it has become a political issue. That’s the problem. As soon as it was made public it was a political issue. To the point candidates for Governor of New York are saying they will use Eminent Domain to seize the land they want to build on. Private property. Nobody had a problem with the plans until May, even though they were finalized in December. All because one crazy person (that happens to be a darling of the far right wing) threw a fit. Now it is political.As for the Aryan thing, I wasn’t attempting to be snarky, I was actually wondering if there was something I was missing hence asking. And that’s interesting that Homeland Security identifies them that way while they self-identify as Christian. Hmmm…

  15. @bosefius –  Homeland Security identifies them as “Aryan (spelling, sorry) faith nation, not Christians. I could frankly care less what Fox news supports or doesn’t. This is not a political football, or at least should not be. Neither is it a monetary issue. It is however a faith issue, and one of conscience. Because there is a permissible legality to do something, does not mean it is the right thing to do. Can you not concede that point? And the existing Mosque, if I recall correctly is approximately 5 blocks away. No, it should not be torn down. I’m not in favor of tearing worship centers down. However, we are talking about a building that was hit during the attacks. For New Yorkers that area is sacred ground, as it should be to every other American.

  16. @ShamelesslyRed – Non-practicing crazed whacko Christian maybe. Brilliant mind, sadly also had 10 pounds of crazy in a 5 pound bag (I don’t know why but I love that quote).Anyway, I do see what you are saying. You don’t feel it’s the morally correct thing to do. I tend to disagree. There is already a Mosque in the same area. By your reasoning it should be torn down, since it is too close.

  17. @christao408 – “I think it would be fantastic if a Wal-Mart or a Christian Church were built there…”You know that’s not true.  The Left hates Wal-Mart and Christianity.  God has been driven out of the public square and all leftist hell break looses whenever Wal-Mart tries to fart.You are employing the leftist tactic of agreeing with your opposition and going right on ahead arguing your leftist ideology.

  18. @bosefius – ha! Go figure that. I left two links here on the page before this one, that moderate Muslims themselves are calling the location of the Mosque “wrong” according to their faith. I know that as a Christian, I am to regard the needs and sensibilities of others better than myself. In other words, my first priority when dealing with others is not to purposely offend them…ever. It’s covered under “loving my neighbors as myself” and of course the Golden Rule, of treating others as I myself would care to be treated in kind. Apparently, many Muslims are taught the same thing, which is why to them, this move to build this Mosque is “radical”. I find that interesting. I find it telling however, that when moderate Muslims who are peaceful, try to warn us or redirect our faulty concepts of what radical Islam is, that we don’t listen. Do you remember the Muslim who served in the Army early this year, who ended up shooting several people on the base? He was noted as being hostile, and extreme yet our PC kept us from recognizing the danger he posed, and in turn caused the misery and loss of too many families. I believe, that we run a horrible risk when we will not listen to those who know the complexities and varying factions of Islam more than any of us in the Western Culture do.

  19. @ShamelesslyRed – I do remember him and I wonder where the failure in the chain was. I would hold his commanding officer (or whoever evaluated him) at blame.I saw your links and I do find them interesting. But that still doesn’t affect the existing mosque. What should be done with it? Should the property it rents be taken away?

  20. @ShamelesslyRed – I guess what I am saying is that I completely understand what you are saying and, in a lot of ways, I do agree. However, because of how this has happened (that it wasn’t an issue until May when it was in public discussion since December) I don’t want them to back down in the least. Because some psycho got her panties in a bunch about the Islamification of America (which is how this started) we now have public demonstrations and threats (way to stay classy).

  21. @ShamelesslyRed –  Not you, you are very classy woman whom I often disagree with but, oddly enough, I do like. Because you not only have the depth of your convictions but because you are willing to discuss reasonably, as opposed to another (who shall remain nameless) that only uses personal attacks.

  22. @christao408 – I wasn’t going to approach it from that angle. You could worship satan, it would have no bearing on whether your blog’s ideas had merit.I was just wondering.@bosefius – She is reasonable and doesn’t resort to personal attacks? You must see another side of her entirely, lol. Even in her last comment she is being hostile and generalizing.

  23. @agnophilo – Mark, he was one of my very first Xangan friends. Do you know why he and I get along as well as we do? Because when he visits my page, he usually, and always totally disagrees with me, yet he does so politely. AND he NEVER tries to rob me of respect. That’s what you do,and it’s the reason, I cannot but barely stand you. People who demean others as a matter of habit sometimes find fault where there is none. I’m sorry that this continues to be an issue with you.

  24. @ShamelesslyRed – No, not Palin. Her name is Geller, part of (or the founder of) Stop Islamification of America. You see there signs all over the place during the protests. And I guess that’s where I have an issue. Geller and her group have made this about religion and politics. They want a church or other Christian memorial, not a Mosque. Either let all build or none is my thing.

  25. @bosefius – Well, I like you too. And I try hard to hold to my convictions of treating others with respect and dignity, because I hate apologizing lol 🙂 Like I said before in my earlier comment to you, I’m not in favor of any existing Mosques being torn down at all–or any worship center for that matter. Anyone who has spent any time on my blog, knows that I’m a Libertarian and a strict Constitutional observer. For me, the rights guaranteed to us are the bottom line. However, because I’m also a person of faith, I seriously question the wisdom of any religion that would do something like this, simply because it is not good faith to practice. Another thing that perplexes me is that when our govt does things that are flatly unconstitutional, then the playing/gripe field is not level among its critics. For example, when Bush was guilty of using rendition, warrantless wiretapping of citizens etc., etc and ETC, the left were screaming…as well they should have been. Now that Obama continues those same policies, not to mention firing the heads of private industry, the bailouts continued etc.,etc, the left is unusually quiet. At least libs and independents like me, are consistent of our defense of the constitution no matter who is in the Oval. This is another issue, that from the beginning I have defended constitutionally while considering the points of others opposed. If you were referring to Palin…a couple of things about her imo. I respect SP as a professional, a mother, and a woman. I do not agree with much of her politics. She is a neo-con as far as I can tell. And the timing of her complaint about this does not detract from the core of the matter. The bottom line I suppose for me is, I support liberty and the constitution…on every issue. That does not mean though, that I like the ideas being proposed

  26. @LoBornlytesThoughtPalace – Sorry, I’m not sure how my arguments are “leftist” in any way.  (Let’s not throw names just because you don’t have any salient points to back up your position…)  More importantly, though, I don’t see how my arguments are “completely contradictory and arbitrary”.  They are actually well thought out and relevant to the issues at hand.  You are the one going on about Jewish settlements in Israel, which is much more arbitrary and irrelevant to this discussion than any comment I’ve made here.Let’s look back at American history: What’s happening here is very similar to the anti-Catholic rhetoric that stained the United States from the first settlers at Jamestown through the mid-1800s. There was anti-Catholic mob violence in the 1840s, whipped up by claims that Catholics would destroy the culture of the United States. This nativist sentiment rears its head from time to time throughout our history, always finding a new group against which to whip up fear. This time, it is “The Muslims” who are perceived as destroying our culture.Unless you are one of those very few people who think that Catholics have destroyed American culture – are you? – I think you have whipped yourself up into a frenzy that a few years from now will seem very silly, indeed.  The mosque we are disagreeing about has been actively used as a mosque for a year now, and yet American culture still stands firm.  It was only once they proposed rebuilding the mosque as a cultural center that this argument arose.It is clear that neither of us is going to change the other’s opinion, and that’s okay.  Peaceful disagreement and the civil discussion of issues of importance is a cornerstone of our nation’s greatness.  Thank you for this conversation. 

  27. Interesting post, and I agree with all you said. Keith Olbermann had a lot to say about this Monday night and his special comment was right on mark….as was the Rachel Maddow show’s substitute. I think of these ultra right-wingers as our “American Taliban” in that they have so much in common with the extremists of the Muslim faith. The right wing Christian extremists are using fear very effectively and making Americans distrustful and afraid of their fellow Muslim American citizens…..so sad!

  28. @ShamelesslyRed – You insult me, condescend to me and perpetually generalize about and belittle anyone who disagrees with you.Occasionally you are polite and sensible for awhile, but only until you run out of arguments, and then you condescend to and insult the other person to “prove” you’re right.

  29. @ShamelesslyRed – @agnophilo – Hi there – sorry for interrupting but your comments have turned from a constructive engagement about the issue at hand into something resembling a tit-for-tat squabble.  I don’t mean to squelch your free speech, but if you are going to continue along this line, could you please take the conversation to a more suitable location such as your own blog?  Thanks.

  30. @Gma_Joyce – Thanks for your comments, as always.  I worry for those people who live their lives in such fear.  This is something I observe when I’m back in the US, particularly in the midwest visiting family.  When are we going to learn as a nation that we truly do not have anything to fear, other than fear itself?

  31. @ShamelesslyRed – In your mind you can insult me time and time again and it doesn’t make you a bad person or reflect on you in the slightest. But I insult you once and you gripe about it and resent me for it for months, bringing it up over and over again and even writing blogs passively bashing me for it.I have embarrassed you on your blog by winning arguments, and in front of someone you are keen to impress. That, I suspect, is why you really resent me. And why no matter what I do or how many times I apologize without you even telling me specifically what I am apologizing for, you will always resent me.

  32. I haven’t read all the comments, but my two cents is broadly in line with the OP’s blog: building the mosque is fine.Also, the proposed site is TWO BLOCKS away. You can’t even see Ground Zero from where the mosque will be.Also, (and I think Obama may have pointed this out as well) you can’t tar the entire Islamic religion by the actions of a few radical zealots.

  33. @ZSA_MD –  You’ve cooked for me, Zakiah, which is all the salute one needs in this life. Thank you for your kind words, though. I read that you had a good time with Meg in DC. That’s wonderful that you were able to meet.@cmdr_keen –  Thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts to the conversation. Thanks, too, for subscribing.

  34. Charles Kruthhammer had an interesting column in The Indianapolis Star op-ed page Saturday, August 14 about this subject. The gist of it was that Muslims have as much right as anyone to build a mosque for members of their community to worship, study, etc. He went on to say that being respectful of the ground on which you were planning to build the building should be a requirement. Building an amusement park at Auschwitz would not be respectful of the memories of the many people who lost their lives there. He gave other examples, as well. This is a perspective that I haven’t heard quite so well articulated as in this article.

  35. You’re a leftist? I thought you were a foodie? It’s interesting reading the reaction and seeing the anger, hostility and extreme reaction. I bet a lot of folks who are so violently opposed to the mosque haven’t even been inside one. I think it’s more than a mosque, there’s a community centre in there too.

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