Monday, August 16, 2010

On the mosque near Ground Zero ...

You've heard about the plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero. A lot of people oppose placing a mosque there. I've heard some people say that the government should do something to stop the construction of this Islamic center.

There was a time in this land when government agencies knew the value of restricting the practices of religious groups considered radical, even to the point of placing limits on where the radicals could worship. I know of a case where a government agency in this land sealed off a house of worship, nailing the doors shut, because the beliefs of the group meeting there were considered dangerous. The government passed a law that "no person should erect or make use of a house for public worship, without license from the authorities." Of course the authorities saw to it that no licenses were issued for this disturbing religious sect.

Oh, wait a minute. These restrictions on houses of worship were directed against Baptists. In 1679 Boston Baptists constructed their first building and the government kicked them out of it and passed an ex post facto law to make sure that Baptists would build no more houses of worship. The beliefs of Baptists were considered a blight on society and the majority agreed that they didn't want any Baptist churches built in that city.

It is because of such persecution that Baptists were in the forefront of the struggle to secure complete religious liberty in this nation. They believed that religious freedom should be a fundamental right and so they declared that people of all faiths should be able to worship when they want and where they want. Baptists were instrumental in the effort to establish the United States as the first place on earth that favored no religion and placed no restrictions on the religious practices of anyone of any faith.

I realize there are raw emotions connected to the events of September 11, 2001. But should we allow these emotions to consume a right that is fundamental to defining the United States as a free country?