Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sarah Palin's Two-Faced Arguments Regarding "Ground Zero Mosque"

The so-called Ground Zero Mosque occupied the headlines over the weekend, following President Obama's endorsement of the group's right to build the mosque. Although Obama plainly limited his comments to a discussion of religious freedom and equality, the media reported the story with a much broader sweep. According to most media reports, Obama had, in fact, endorsed the decision making behind the location of the mosque.

Yesterday, he clarified his remarks, which led to another round of botched media reporting. Now, Obama has supposedly "walked back" or "narrowed" the scope of his comments. He did no such thing.

The Bloggacuda Enters the Fray

Liberals and conservatives alike have criticized Obama's imaginary walk-back. Conservatives, however, now argue that Obama should express his opinion regarding the "wisdom" of the project. The Bloggacuda herself -- Sarah Palin -- scribbled out a Facebook entry demanding that Obama state whether mosque proponents should build the mosque near ground zero.

Palin, like other conservatives, claims that she agrees that the mosque proponents have the right to build the mosque, but she argues that they should not. She claims that building the mosque will cause religious tension, and she wants Obama to enter this thicket. This is a contradictory position.

Religious Freedom Means The Government Does Not Make Decisions For Religious Groups

Religious freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment. The US Constitution allows mosque proponents to construct the mosque if they, as Obama stated during his speech, comply with local and state laws. Generally, it is not the role of government to tell religious individuals and organizations whether and how they should exercise their constitutional rights, particularly when, as here, the government's input could have a decisive impact.

If Obama told Palin that he respects her First Amendment right to post hate essays on Facebook, but that she should not do so because she is divisive, she would not appreciate the interference. In fact, she and her minions would probably (re)accuse Obama of being a socialist, radical, communist. Nevertheless, Palin wants Obama to comment on the wisdom of a religious group's decision to locate a mosque in lower Manhattan.

Palin has a two-faced view of constitutional liberty -- as do all of the other commentators who want Obama to go more deeply into this conflict. Religious freedom means that so long as people comply with laws of general application then the government should not interfere with their religious practices. I suspect that Palin and other opponents of the mosque would cheer a decision by local authorities to block the mosque project. This, however, does not reflect an embrace of religious freedom.

If liberals and conservatives actually support religious freedom, they must accept the building of the mosque -- regardless of whether they believe it is a good idea or not. This is all Obama said during his speech. For this, I commend him. On this issue, all sides must accept a "wall of separation between mosque and state."

UPDATE: This essay was edited for clarity.

Also on Dissenting Justice:

Media Continues to Misstate Obama's Position on Mosque (Updated)

Media Misstates Obama's Position on Mosque; Obama Clarifies Stance


MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

President Obama did not need to remind his muslim audience during the Ramadan speech that the First Amendment exists, or that he supports it. He was simply pandering to his audience with that speech. There's nothing wrong with that. That's what politicians do. It's what Sarah Palin does.

If he is not backpeddling, as many liberals seem to believe, then I think President Obama is demonstrating "growth" with his clarification. It would suggest he learned a lesson from the Professor Gates affair that there is little upside for a president meddling in issues that should be handled at the local level.

Conservatives who say they want less federal government, but insist that President Obama take a stand on this issue are not being ideologically consistent. I see no reason why Obama should weigh in beyond articulating his support for the general principle of religious freedom. I am glad he thinks that, too. Sarah Palin is wrong on this one.

davemartin said...

Sarah Palin, doesn't have enough palms and Sharpies to hand that press conference she's never had since her 2008 nomination.

Sarah Palin's career would be over in half an hour of word salad gibberish were she ever to appear on "Meet the Press", "Face the Nation" or "This Week."

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

"Maggot": I suspect that Obama believes in religious freedom. Why is it "pandering" to bring up the issue? Pandering seems like a phoney commitment. I generally agree with the rest of your comment.

Deo said...

Obama is to be commended to come out against religious intolerance.
The mosque will be build at the old BURLINGTON COAT FACTORY, NOT hallowed ground....6 blocks away from GROUND ZERO.
$arah is the one PANDERING her base aka AMERICA'S TALIBAN.

None said...

Given that people in my town had a big thing over whether or not we should build a swimming pool (and good luck these days with a church in certain cities), I don't have a problem with people arguing about whether or not a mosque should be built.

Josh said...

Very well said. The intellectual inconsistency of conservatives on this issue is appalling.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

None: Churches implicate the First Amendment; pools do not.

Josh: Thanks.

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