Saturday, August 21, 2010

Courting 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. (First Amendment of the Constitution for the United States.)

At a recent dinner celebrating Ramadan, the President made it abundantly clear to us that our nation’s religious freedoms grants any group the right to build on private land. Clarifying the next day, he didn’t mean to imply that he thought it is “right” or “wise” to build a community center containing a mosque close to Ground Zero in NYC. (If “walking back comments” becomes an Olympic event, Mr. Obama may be eligible for the American team!)

Most Americans are well aware of the religious freedom provisions in the First Amendment. Though, admittedly, some get confused about freedom of religious vs. freedom from religion. This is a religious nation, a pluralistic society in which we all try to live in religious harmony. It’s disappointing that there are people and groups that single out certain religious faiths (Christians and Jews come to mind) as less deserving of “tolerance." And of course, there’s the famous July 2010 story of the students banished from praying on the Supreme Court steps. We truly are living in strange times. But I digress.

The NY Mosque case highlights the current administration’s mixed messaging over the past 20 months about the freedoms protected by the First Amendment. The rights are not granted BY the government, they are protected FROM government infringement because they are natural rights, inalienable rights accorded to all of God’s creatures.

Consider Nancy Pelosi’s recent challenge that individuals opposing the NY Mosque should be investigated to learn how they are funded. What is wrong with individuals lawfully offering opinions and personal feelings regarding this proposed building? To have the government investigate you is an intimidating process, yet Speaker Pelosi feels comfortable to offer such a threat on camera! Strange times in an America that has always lauded the First Amendment, indeed. By the way, Pelosi may also make that Olympic “walking back” team as her spokesperson later said we should also investigate the funding of the Mosque.

Step in the way-back machine to 2009 and let me remind you of an Oval Office conversation with Republicans during which the President “called out” Rush Limbaugh, a private citizen. "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done." The problems continued in a CBS interview, Obama called both Limbaugh and Beck “troublesome” and the interviewer Harry Smith replied, “It’s beyond that.” (Good news here is that Smith didn't jump into Obama's lap during the interview) Yay, free press!! (It’s only “free” if you agree with this bunch as evidenced by the engineered attack against Fox News.) What is truly “troublesome” is the practice of the President and the likes of Nancy Pelosi concerning themselves publicly with the words of private citizens.

Julie Ranson is the mother of three who lives and teaches at a community college in Virginia.

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