The Constitution Isn’t A Suicide Pact
But it is a document that ensures a pesky little thing called religious freedom, something that Herman Cain has seemingly missed.
Herman Cain, a Republican presidential candidate, says Americans have the right to ban Muslims from building mosques.
“They have the right to do that,” Cain said on Fox News Sunday, expressing his concerns with Sharia law. “I’m willing to take a harder look at people that might be terrorists.”
Cain’s comments were in reference to a Tennessee town that is attempting to ban a mosque in its community. “That’s not discriminating based upon their particular religion,” he said. “There is an aspect of them building that mosque that doesn’t get talked about. And the people in the community know what it is and they’re talking about it.”
“Our Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state,” Cain said. “Islam combines church and state. They’re using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their morals in that community, and the people in the community do not like it.”
I’m the last person to deny the perniciousness of many elements within Islam, but this is nonsense on stilts. The most deliciously ironic aspect of this comment is Cain’s relying on the “separation of church and state trope.” So Cain doesn’t seem to think that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, which it in fact does, but he does think it guarantees a separation of church and state, which it in fact does not. And I especially have to laugh at Cain saying “They’re using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their morals in that community and the people in the community do not like it.” First of all, the church part of our First Amendment? What? Second, does anyone doubt that if an atheist or hardened leftist (I know, I’m being redundant) had said something like this he would have been excoriated by most conservatives. Evidently only pre-approved religious viewpoints are allowed to influence people in a given community. Perhaps Herman Cain would like to share with us which viewpoints are acceptable, this way we can be all clear in the future.
Naturally this has provided an opportunity for people to beat their chests and play “more righteously angry and conservative than thou.” Because only a hippy could possibly think that it is a dangerous thing to start prohibiting certain religions from constructing places of worship. This selective application of the first amendment could never be applied to Catholics, right? No one could possibly fathom using the same precise rationale that Cain has advanced here in order justify blocking the construction of a Roman Catholic Church.
I thought the construction of the Islamic cultural center at Ground Zero was a terrible idea, but that had to do with the symbolic import of the location. Even then, I thought the way to oppose it was through social pressure, not by the strong arm of the state intervening and prohibiting construction. The people of the local community can certainly express their displeasure, but once we allow the state to intervene we have destroyed the concept of religious freedom.
And yes, I know that many adherents of Islam do not even believe in the concept of religious freedom. Certainly there is a political element within Islam that makes it as much an ideology as a religion, at least in certain quarters. But are we willing to completely write off all Muslims as deranged fanatics unworthy of constitutional protections? If you think as Herman Cain does, then that’s implicitly what you are saying.