Monday, July 18, 2011

Herman’s Hermits

If you think people’s ignorance on the debt ceiling issue is alarming, try their ignorance on something much more fundamental and potentially worse, like the First Amendment and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it.

Herman Cain has no qualms about where he stands on the whole issue of religious freedom; he’s for it, so long as the particular religion meets his standard as a real religion. Take Islam, for example. Apparently in Cain’s myopic universe, Muslims aren’t entitled to the same Constitutional protection as Christians, Jews, Hindus, and everybody else in the universe.

In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Cain was unabashedly unapologetic about his stance. Not only doesn’t Islam meet his standard for a legitimate religion, Americans have the right to ban the building of Mosques in their communities, should they choose to.

“Our Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state. Islam combines church and state. They're using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their morals in that community, and the people of that community do not like it. They disagree with it.”

Wallace then asked him to further articulate his stance.

“Let's go back to the fundamental issue,” Cain said. “Islam is both a religion and a set of laws – Sharia laws. That's the difference between any one of our traditional religions where it's just about religious purposes.”

Of course, Cain isn’t discriminating against Muslims, mind you.

“Look, I know that there's a peaceful group of Muslims in this country. God bless them and they're free to worship. If you look at my career I have never discriminated against anybody, because of their religion, sex or origin or anything like that.”

What worried me most wasn’t the ignorance of a political candidate who has no idea how hypocritical and ridiculous he sounds. And, given that he is African American, he apparently has no concept of the irony contained within his prejudice. It was not that long ago that the same convoluted logic Cain employed was used rather effectively to discriminate against his own people.

What concerned me most was the string of comments that followed the news thread, which appeared in Yahoo.

“As with all other religions, in America you can observe the laws of that religion as long as they do not conflict with our laws.”

“They can build a place of worship, but the sharia law that conflicts with American law is illegal and cannot be permitted. When they emigrate to America they accept its laws, if they aren’t able to live by them, then go to where this 'sharia law' is within the legal confines of the respective legal system. Let’s go to Yemen and impose 'Catholic law.'”

“What he should have said is that we can allow mosques in this country, but that the USA should ban Sharia Law from our land. We already have a law of the land (the last time I heard) and it is called the US Constitution. However, so many people these days are throwing it out the window that they might just get Sharia law here in this country. Sharia Law is completely contrary to our Constitution. BEWARE Sharia Law, especially if you are female or gay. God forbid it ever gets a foothold in the USA.”

“The United States constitution does not and will not support a religion that brings some other laws other than the ones it made fools. Islam is unconstitutional, but the cowards in Washington will not stand against it.”

“Crackpot cultures are being forced on us by liberals who think we are all equal.  We are hardly all equal. Fight for your community.”

I got ill after the first few. I wish I could report that these shining examples of Constitutional scholars represented the minority view; sadly they did not. In fact, I was unable to find a single retort to Cain’s insane and completely inaccurate read of the First Amendment, which, for the record, does not allow for any community to ban the practice of religious expression, regardless of how many people feel that way.

And that is the saddest thing of all in this fiasco. In a supposedly “grassroots” movement that is all about getting back to what the Founding Fathers intended, there is a stunning dearth of knowledge about what it was that they fought so hard to achieve.

Freedom means nothing until and unless it is enjoyed by all, regardless of religious, ethnic, racial or political affiliation. No one has the right, under any circumstances, to suspend that right, just because of some fear or prejudice. We are a nation of laws, and the highest of these laws says you are innocent until proven guilty. Putting the cart before the horse is a sure fire way to undermine and destroy the very freedom we claim to cherish above all else. And once we proceed down that slippery slope, none of us are safe.

Herman Cane, of all people, should get this. His minions, suffice to say, are clueless.

1 comment:

steve said...

Funny. I'm actually more afraid of my fellow Christians having power and establishing some theocratic state than Muslims and Sharia.