“Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances … This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.” – President Barrack Obama
Wow, do we have a hornet’s nest of controversy brewing here or what? There are a lot of aspects to consider. Let’s start with the constitutional legal issues and local legal issues – then move on to the rest.
When the president speaks of religious freedom and an unshakable commitment, I wholeheartedly agree. At the very least, the Constitution would not appear to give any impetus or authority to the federal government on this issue – so the president and Congress can kindly stay out of it. To those who wish to defend the mosque on Constitutional grounds, I think most people would cede the point.
However, I have also read bits of the ACLJ’s legal argument against the mosque. It is all based on local New York City ordinance – not Constitutional law. To make a federal case of it (so to speak) is a bit disingenuous. The claim is, apparently, that the mosque was approved without following any of the procedures that have been established for zoning and approving such a venture. Now, I can’t comment one way or the other on that issue – but it would appear to be at least a reasonable place to make a defense.
Afterall, I suspect that if I declared my intention to build a church in my backyard (which is very small) and hold services there, I would promptly be told “no” by the city. This has nothing to do with federal establishment of religion and everything to do with local ordinance. (Of course, as a freedom-loving individualist, I would claim that it’s my property and the city has no right to tell me what I can do with it … but I’m sure there are “legal precedents” out there to contravene my argument.)
Even more interesting to me though is the political aspect of the discussion. Barrack Obama appears brazenly clueless right now. His handlers really ought to be doing a better job with him. Slumping economy headed towards double-dip recession, unemployment at 9.5% and he sends the first lady on a lavish vacation to Spain. (Come to think of it, he seems to be taking a LOT of vacations.) Then he wades in on this Mosque situation which has absolutely nothing to do with his charge as president.
Now, it doesn’t really matter to me how much vacation he takes – he can meet with advisers anywhere he wants for all I care. And I’m also pretty indifferent on the mosque issue in general. My point is simply that these decisions represent a stunning lack of political acumen. You just don’t reach over and touch hot-button issues when you don’t have to. The political strategists over at 1600 Pennsylvania seem to be out to lunch (or on vacation).
As for the Republicans, who I have no great love for, a bit of advice: when your opponent is committing political suicide – don’t help! Obama is all over the map sticking his foot in his mouth. The last thing you need to do right now is say “look, he just stuck his foot in his mouth.” There are plenty of pundits with huge megaphones that will make sure the public knows what is going on – you should stay out of it.
All in all, it does make for a nice bit of political theater.
As for the left’s new found love of the Constitution and its religious protections – one may well wish that they would stick so close to Constitutional principle and protections on every issue. Alas, I doubt that will happen.