Freedom of religion, speech, of the press, and of right of petition -- Congress shall make no law respecting an 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.
We are not doing very well with this article right now. For many weeks Muslims in America have been feeling the effects of a growing atmosphere of religious bigotry. All the talk this week is about a proposed burning of the Koran on September 11 by Terry Jones, a right wing Christian zealot in Florida, who is a nativist. That the church rebuffs military concerns on Quran burning# has sparked a series of warnings of very negative consequences by religious and political leaders. Many are urging that he give up his Burn the Quran plan, reports Aljazeera. On the other hand, Slate's Fred Kaplan points out that key Republican leaders have not been that outspoken in their support for the safety of our troops.
Religious intolerance is not new. In the 1840's Irish Catholics were the targets when a church was burned. Nativists even formed a political party in the 19th century called the "Know-Nothings." Informed Comment's Juan Cole concludes:
In the real United States it doesn’t matter what your religion is, and you can build your house of worship where you please, and you don’t have to be born here to be a citizen. Nativists believed the opposite of all these things. They formed a secret party in the nineteenth century that they called the “Know-Nothings.”
They are back.
Under the umbrella of the Constitution must sit all these disagreeing and disagreeable neighbors: peaceable Amercian Muslims who revere the Koran; hostile Christian bigots who mock the Bible's Beatitudes; unthoughtful members of the mainstream media who love controversy more than news; hypocritical politicians who care too much about what the political base might think; soldiers in harm's way at the hands of implacable enemies; and religious, military and political leaders of good will who must work through and face up to this awful dilemma. No wonder so much of this feels like a devil's bargain.
-- Hat tip to my regular contributor, Jon, whose link is marked (#).