‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Opposition About Freedom of Religion or Not?

September 12, 2010

In the ongoing debate over the proposed “Ground Zero Mosque,” those opposing it have often claimed that they are not arguing that government should have the ability to stop the construction of the site. They say that the other side’s constant criticism that the opposition to the mosque represents an attempt at restricting freedom of religion is false, because they are not advocating using government force — only persuasion — to prevent the construction.

But then came recent comments last week from one of the most vocal critics of the proposed construction, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich:

 In a radio interview today, he said he wants the national government to step in and stop the developers from building the Islamic community center by whatever means necessary … And if that fails, he said, the state government should step in and use its considerable power to stymie the development. “The Attorney General of New York, Andrew Cuomo, could intervene because frankly he has the ability to slow it down for decades if he wants to.”

Government preventing the construction of a place of worship based primarily on the fact that a large group of citizens oppose that religion has no place under our system of government. It is becoming evident that several in the opposition to this construction are willing to use government force to prevent it. So much for that whole, “This is not about freedom of religion” thing.

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Paternalism at Home and Abroad

August 17, 2010

Two recent news items point out that government paternalism knows no geographical boundaries. The first is from China, the other from here at home.

In China:

… the city of Beijing has resumed mandatory daily workplace calisthenics, after a three-year break. Radio broadcast exercise regimens first began in 1951, but were suspended in 2007 ….

And in our country’s version of Beijing, California:

In San Francisco, newly proposed legislation would ban toys from most kids meals sold at McDonald’s, Burger King and other chains unless the meals meet more stringent calorie and sodium limits. The legislation also would require fruit or veggies in each meal.

Leave it to government, both here and across the ocean, to limit individual choice and freedom via mandates or prohibitions that do not act in any legitimate way to protect individual rights (the core purpose of government). Instead, they are too busy making sure we are healthy.

Words for the Weekend – 8-6-10

August 6, 2010

John Adams

“Let the pulpit resound with the doctrine and sentiments of religious liberty. Let us hear of the dignity of man’s nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God. … Let it be known that…liberties are not the grants of princes and parliaments.”

                                       — John Adams

Words for the Weekend 6-4-10

June 4, 2010

“A great danger that we face in our modern world is to get so caught up in the pursuit of the blessings that freedom has given us that we come to take freedom itself for granted, and thus fail to see to its maintenance.”

                                                                     – Robert Hawes

Memorial Day: The Cost of Freedom

May 31, 2010

Words for the Weekend – 5-28-10

May 28, 2010

Isaiah Berlin

Everything is what it is: liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience. If the liberty of myself or my class or nation depends on the misery of a number of other human beings, the system which promotes this is unjust and immoral. But if I curtail or lose my freedom in order to lessen the shame of such inequality, and do not thereby materially increase the individual liberty of others, an absolute loss of liberty occurs.”

                                                                                    – Isaiah Berlin

Hitchens: Force Secularism

May 26, 2010

In a recent opinion piece on Slate, Christopher Hitchens came out in favor of France’s moves to ban the wearing of veils and the burqa by Muslim women in public places. Hitchens is a well-known and vocal atheist, recently writing God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, so his aversion to the public display of religion is not surprising. What is confusing, though, is the nature of his argument for banning the religious garb.

Hitchens argues that the burqa ban will do society and Muslim women a favor. He argues that members of a society have the “right” to see each others’ faces, so banning the veiling of faces would aid in this. He also argues essentially that no Muslim woman would voluntarily wear a veil or burqa, so banning them would be beneficial to the women.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=burqa+french&iid=7718370″ src=”e/2/c/7/Najat_and_Siham_2a38.JPG?adImageId=12996291&imageId=7718370″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]In doing this, he misuses the term “right” while simultaneously taking the right to religious expression away from women. As an atheist, Hitchens doesn’t believe in unalienable rights from God. Those who don’t believe in unalienable rights are prone to place other more utilitarian values like equality, fraternity and secularism — values often touted in French society — ahead of individual freedom. The good of society is prioritized over the rights of the individual. It is, in his view, better for society that women go unveiled regardless of the actual desire of women.

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French Equality Veils Liberty

April 30, 2010

The recent refocus on the immigration issue here in the United States displays how segments in our society view newcomers and their place in our society. France, likewise, has been dealing with issues of immigration. Whereas the influx of Mexican immigrants has concerned Americans, the French have been dealing with the influx of various Muslim groups for quite a while now. Lately, the French have been concerned with the public religious practices of the Muslim subculture, which seem to threaten the country’s persistent emphasis on secularism and egalitarianism.

At issue is competing values of liberty and equality. The Muslims wearing the religious symbols banned in public schools in the country several years ago and those wearing the veils that may be soon be banned if French President Sarkozy has his way see such religious garb as an expression of their individual religious liberty. Those French opposed to that expression view the garb as symbolic of a Muslim counter-culture hostile to equality for women.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=france+muslims&iid=3620536″ src=”2/1/b/2/Muslims_Rally_Against_e566.jpg?adImageId=12692764&imageId=3620536″ width=”250″ height=”152″ /]The French reaction to this supposed societal dilemma exemplifies the focus their society has had on equality. Should the same issue become prominent in the U.S., one would imagine that the liberty of the Muslim women would win out. Individual religious expression in this country has more often than not trumped any societal claims to forced equality.

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Congress Controlling Pay

August 1, 2009

If you thought plans to limit bonuses and cap salaries for top-tier employees working for companies receiving TARP funds were worrisome enough, now the House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow the government to control pay for all financial companies with assets greater than $1 billion. Two reports on the bill, aimed at preventing “perverse incentives in the compensation practices of financial institutions,” can be read here and here.

Politico summed up the bill this way:

Banks, financial advisers and other financial firms would have to disclose their bonus plans to federal regulators, who would have the power to ban compensation packages they believe would encourage “inappropriate risks” by firms or employees.

Naturally, private industry is concerned that this an overstep on the part of government:

“The legislation represents a giant step toward the U.S. government controlling private entities,” said Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs for the Financial Services Roundtable, an industry trade association.

Dismissing concerns over such an obvious overreach by government into the private economy, one member of Congress clearly twisted the effect of this controversial legislation:

“This is not the government taking over the corporate sector,” Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C, said of the House action. “It is a statement by the American people that it is time for us to straighten up the ship.”

The last six-plus months of Obama and “progressives” controlling both the executive and legislative branches of our government, not to mention the last few months of the previous Bush administration, have led to perhaps one of the most rapid expansions of government power over the private sector in our country’s history. No matter what you call the various actions in the last months (“bailouts,” “overhauls,” “reforms,” etc.), they all represent an ever-steady encroachment on freedom.

The march toward change is in full swing — and in a hurry. Although it’s more like a stampede … a stampede that is trampling over our liberties.

“Give Me Liberty or ?”

April 7, 2009