Tibor R. Machan
For once I agree with something that President Obama said, if I understood him right: Muslims do have the basic right, one that is legally protected in a free country, to build a mosque anywhere they choose if they own the land (or are leasing it with permission from the owner) to build there even though it is very possible that they should not build the mosque, that it is morally offensive, unwise, and imprudent for them to do so. That is indeed part of the meaning of freedom of religion.
If only Mr. Obama and his supporters had the integrity to apply this doctrine in other areas of social life, such as education, science, the arts, and economics. In all those spheres human beings have the right to do as they choose, provided they are not violating anyone’s rights; yet in these areas they do not enjoy the protection of the law in America and most other places around the globe (places, by the way, where the right to religious liberty enjoys no protection, such as in most countries where the official, government supported religion is Islam).
Interestingly, Mr. Obama never mentioned this last point, thus missing a fine opportunity to do a bit of peaceful proselytizing to the rest of the world. As if freedom of worship were some kind of culturally specific right just of American citizens, not a basic, universal human right at all! But it is just that, a basic human right and where it lacks protection, there is serious injustice afoot. And there is serious injustice afoot in America where only religion and journalism (and some adjacent activities) enjoy legal protection from those who would regulate and regiment other people’s peaceful–albeit possibly risky or offensive–conduct.
This is kind of like that famous modern liberal crusade in support of choice, the choice to get an abortion (at least up to when a human being emerges during pregnancy). OK, so arguably pregnant women have the right to choose–I will not explore this topic here any further. But why stop there? It is utterly perverse to believe that while pregnant women ought to be free to kill their fetuses, they should not be free to, say, smoke marijuana or open a hair salon without the “permission” of politicians and bureaucrats. How come the former but not the latter? What kind of a free country is it where such contradictions are rampant and upheld by the legal authorities (including the president)? Or where one is free to publish porn galore but must bow to local, state and/or federal authorities who want to regulate nearly everything else they might choose to? Why is one’s freedom to choose as one wants with one’s resources, one’s wealth (which also means one’s skills, time, property, etc.) not protected with the determination that one’s freedom to publish whatever one wants to publish is and to worship whatever one elects to worship?
Not only on the domestic front but around the globe America would have a far better reputation, for political integrity to start with, if it went on record, via, for example, its chief executive officer, declaring–once again–that individual human beings have fundamental rights, simply for being human, to do as they want to do provided what they elect to do is peaceful, non-invasive or non-aggressive.
There is a time to be righteous, yes, and when some truly despised organization such as those who have made the vile choice to built a mosque near ground zero of all places, then speaking up for their rights is arguably honorable and righteous. But it isn’t if those doing such speaking up forget about all the other rights human beings have that go neglected, unprotected, abused and violated throughout the land, not to mention the globe. It is fine for our president to defend the rights of misguided Muslims but not while he fails to mention that millions of others do not have their rights properly protected, in innumerable spheres of peaceful human activity. It may even suggest a bias on his part, one no official of a free country ought to harbor.