Monday, August 16, 2010

Freedom From Religion

"Congress shall make no law respecting the 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."
It is pretty amazing that the first amendment of the constitution of the United States not only provides for freedom from the establishment of a national religion, but also protects freedom of speech for those who would like to see the U.S. become a purely Christian nation.

I know we shouldn't let facts get in the way of a good rant, but here's the story. A community center is planned for Park Place in lower Manhattan. Called Park 51, its developers want to include a fitness center, auditorium, restaurant and culinary school, cultural amenities including exhibitions, education programs, a child care center, a library and art studios along with Holy Day programs and ceremonial meals.

This sounds quite like a New York City landmark, the 92nd Street Y, which has a fitness center, auditorium, cultural performance space, art gallery, art and music studios, education programs, child care, and student housing along with Holy Day programs and ceremonial meals.

The main difference between these community centers? Park 51 celebrates a Muslim community and the 92nd Street Y, a Jewish community. There will be a mosque at Park 51, just as there are religious services at the 92nd Street Y. After that, from my view, it comes down to intolerance and politics.

Matthew Yglesias analyzed recent rants by Newt Gingrich and determined the parameters of the "Mosque Exclusion Zone" in lower Manhattan. It would be funnier if it weren't so sad.

Tomorrow, two voices of reason in this debate.

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