‘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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