Quietly, without the fanfare that accompanied the original construction announcement, the Supreme Court has allowed an Islamic group in Tennessee to build a mosque.
That wouldn’t seem like a big deal. After all, religious buildings are erected around this country on a regular basis. An estimated 4,000 churches are “birthed” in this country annually, according to an on-line report. The number of mosques nationally has jumped, too, from 1,209 in 2000 to 2,106 in 2010, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.
However, the freedom-loving residents of Murfreesboro (named for Revolutionary War hero Hardy Murfree) objected to the idea of a mosque in their community. Sure, they said, Muslims could have a mosque, but not in their backyard. Why not nearby Christiana, Smyrna or College Grove? That’s the same kind of reaction when someone proposes to build low-income housing or a shelter for the homeless.
Ironically, only 38.4 percent of the Murfreesboro residents consider themselves religious, i.e. Christian. Of course, that’s less than the national average of 48.7 percent, but the Tennesseans try harder.
After all, there are so many “others.” Really? There are statistically no Jews in the city; and only a handful of residents who identify themselves with Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. The number of Muslims is incredible small, too, just .19 percent of the population there.
Apparently, that was terrifying to the good religious folks in Murfreesboro.
|Protests at the mosque
They spent four years fighting in court against the mosque. Someone even set fire to the proposed site, but most of the true believers spent their time before various judges with these specious arguments:
(1) The First Amendment promising freedom of religion does not apply to the mosque.
(2) Islam is not a religion.
(3) The mosque was a threat to the community.
The only judge who fell for that kind of irrational logic was a local fellow who naturally worried more about his re-election. A federal court quickly reversed the ruling as did the state’s appeals court. The Supreme Court refusal this week to even hear the case ended the argument.
Unfortunately, that won’t change anyone’s mind in Murfreesboro or in the tents of religious conservatives anywhere. The issue is far bigger than a single mosque.
For example, a congressman recently argued that gay marriage should not be approved because the majority doesn’t want it. Of course, he is sworn to uphold the Constitution, which includes a Bill of Rights written to counter the tyranny of the majority.
The question is what’s fair for everyone, not who has the most power. Majority rule comes into play with elections and legislation, not rights. Otherwise, this country would be under complete Anglican control, because that was the dominate faith of the early Americans. I wonder how the 19 percent of the Murfreesboro population who identify themselves as Baptists would feel about that.
The issue leeches into public life, as well. John Kennedy, when running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1960, had to defend himself from religious attackers who claimed that his Catholic religion would force him to obey the pope. Mitt Romney in 2012 faced the same hostile claims about his Mormon faith.
In Murfreesboro, local Muslims had to defend their faith and their status as American citizens during the legal proceedings.
Looking at the big picture, the construction of the mosque does not represent simply the opening of a new religious building. Lord knows, there are enough of them. Instead, it illuminates yet another battle in the continual effort to maintain religious freedom in this country against the onslaught of conservatives hell-bent to make everyone in this country Christian.
They plan to continue their war against religious freedom, even if that means undermining everything that makes us and them Americans.
www.williamplazarus.net. He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion. His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers. He can also be followed on Twitter.
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