“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.”
— The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Only 88 words, but brief enough to hold the attention span of busy people as well as challenged people, or for that matter both. Let’s say someone like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Clearly, Sen. Reid is busy. Once you add all those Capitol Hill social events to his regular duties representing the good people of Nevada, as well as herding his fellow senators into some sort of pack, he likely has little time for anything else — such as reading the Bill of Rights.
Maybe the only debatable questions about his challenges are the types of trials he has. He seems intellectually OK, but he is clearly either morally or ethically in the red. Sen. Reid is battling for his Senate seat against a right-wing Republican, Sharron Angle. And last week she held Reid’s feet to the fire on whether there should be a mosque built within blocks of where the 9-11 terrorist attacks took place in Manhattan.
In a prepared statement that belies the oath Reid took when he swore “to defend the Constitution” — including its amendments — Reid said that he “thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.”
The Senate majority leader is bowing to conservative racist sentiment to shore up enough support to win re-election. Despicable!
Really, it’s not surprising that FOX network’s Bill O’Reilly dug up Raheel Raza, a member of the Muslim Canadian Congress, to say the mosque shouldn’t be built.
It is comical, though, that Bill O is deferring to Canadians to help with decision-making here in the U.S. I can’t wait until we revisit health care, and he runs to Canada for advice then. We might actually get a decent medical delivery system.
But let’s face it, Bill O is an opportunist and will turn to Canada for authoritative support only when it suits his purposes. His only job is to advance the agenda of the big shots that pay his salary. He is not an elected official sworn to defend our Constitution and the rights it guarantees to all Americans.
A U.S. senator is different. His or her job is to take whatever flak he or she must — no matter how politically precarious — in order to secure the liberties and freedoms of even the smallest minority.
But British humorist Alan Corenk’s opinion of our system of government is the way Reid behaves as Senate leader: “Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they’ve told you what you think it is you want to hear.”
So Reid parrots back to the electorate what he has read in the polling figures — that the majority of U.S. residents think the mosque doesn’t belong there — and he’s willing to sacrifice the liberties of the Muslims who live in New York City along with his own duties as senator.
Maybe a little history lesson would help the senator regain his moral compass.
New York City is a pretty important place, and certainly the financial district is key to many aspects of our worldly presence: But it isn’t the holy land by any stretch.
And when we look to the Holy Land — Jerusalem — we see a city where the blood of the innocents has been spilled for millennia by folks of differing religions who all now peacefully coexist within its walls.
Mosques, churches and synagogues are separated by mere feet in this city that has been home to all of Abraham’s religious descendents. And Jerusalem virtually always has existed with a theocratic government — they didn’t even have a secular government — with the exception of the days when the multitheistic Romans ruled the land.
I invite Sen. Reid and anyone else who opposes diversity of religious worship in our nation to fly to Jerusalem and walk from the Christian quarter where Christ was crucified over to the Wailing Wall where the Jews freely pray to the Dome of the Rock, which Muslims believe marks Muhammed’s ascension into heaven and find a more culturally alive place to live.
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@ hotmail.com.