We like to think that we live in a democracy and that we have freedoms and liberties that few other nations enjoy. This idea is American propaganda and mythology in the making. The United States of America is not a federal constitutional republic, its a federal regulated republic. The United States is full of regulatory agencies such as the FDA, EPA, SEC, and FAA amongst others. There are government buildings full of agencies and government regulators that want to regulate our fundamental freedoms. I’m all for regulating large industries and known polluters. No one wants to board a plane that has missed scheduled maintenance, or consume food full of chemicals and other known toxins, and of course no one wants their kids to play with toys laden with lead. That said, regulatory agencies have begun to encroach on a persons freedom to eat whatever they want. New York has moved to ban large sugary soft drinks and transfat from area restaurants. California has moved to make the sale and consumption of Foie Gras. The is the level of idiocracy in California, to make food illegal while at the same time making control substances like marijuana legal. This is the beginning of our shared regulated future.
All rights, including freedom of speech, have limitations and building a mosque near Ground Zero is the architectural equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded building. All Americans have the right to practice their faith in the accordance with his or her believes but they do not the the right to impose said beliefs upon any other person. There have been numerous cases where an establish religious organization has tried to put a symbol of their faith in clear public view. In many situations, the religious symbols have been forcibly removed under court order. Issues not unlike this have already gone to the supreme court.
In 2009, the US Supreme Court heard a case about a cross put up to honor fallen veterans. In the middle of a desert, this cross stood to pay homage to our war dead, and someone was offended enough to take the issue to the Supreme Court.
Cases like this have come up in court before, even though there is a separation between church and state, it doesn’t mean that one can impose their believes on others and place religious symbols in public view. Freedom of Speech also does not guarantee you unlimited and unfiltered speech. The classic example of the limits of Freedom of Speech is that one can’t yell fire in a crowded building. Building a a mosque in the ashes of Ground Zero is the architectural equivalent of yelling, “In yo face, bitches.” Islam is not unique to building religious structures over the those of other peoples. There is little coincidence that the Dome of the Rock is built over looking the ruins of the Jewish sacred places. This is not unique to Islam, conquistadores in Mexico built much of their colonial cathedrals using the same building block used to house mesoamerican gods.
The wounds of September 11 will take a long time to heal and all that went though it should pray together not build apart. We should build bridges not walls, and if you think you are building a bridge make sure you block the view of the locals!
Lest we forget, peace be to all the peoples of the book, even those that got the abridge edition!