What started as a local zoning dispute over a proposed mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site has spread into a dispute over First Amendment protections, religion in public life and the campaigns of Pennsylvania politicians.But the real story is in who (locally) said what. Ask yourself, who's brave and stands up for religious liberty and who, well, doesn't.
Jason Altmire is the first local politician mentioned in the piece:
Rep. Jason Altmire of McCandless was among the first congressional Democrats to come out against the project, and Keith Rothfus of Edgeworth, his Republican opponent in November's election, joined him Wednesday in opposing it.However, while disappointing to read that Almire came out against the project, this is not the only thing he's said about Park51. When he was on Rob Pratt's KDKA radio show, he said they have a constitutional right to build the center - but he questioned whether it was "morally" the right thing to do. More from pa2010.com:
"The folks who attacked us on September 11 were attacking us in the name of a religion," Rothfus said.
"It's an attack that was generated by Islamic extremists," Altmire said. "As a country, we are offended by this. This gets right back to the heart of what happened September 11."
Count Congressman Jason Altmire (D-4) among the politicians who doesn’t think a mosque should be built two blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood.The issue of being offended, however, has little or no bearing. Who's offended at the Catholic Church's pedophile priests? Can we discuss banning churches from being within walking distance to a school? Didn't think so.
Altmire said over the weekend that he is “offended” by the idea of building the mosque and Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, where the worst of the Sept. 11, 200 terrorist attacks occurred. Acknowledging the project’s backers have a legal and constitutional freedom to do so, Altmire said “there should be some discussion about what is right morally, as well as just what you’re allowed to do.”
While it's nice to see Altmire at least acknowledges Park51 project's rights, it would be nicer to see some backbone here. Seems to me his response is trying to have it both ways: Yes they have a right to build it but considering how offensive some people think it is, should they? And as always, there's a call for a "discussion" on the topic.
Rothfus, on the other hand, is frightening. He's opposed because the terrorists attacked "us" in the name of religion. Therefore this community center, to be built by other members of another sect of that religion, should be rejected. If his quotation is accurate, the logical conclusion to his position is little different from the AFA's Bryan Fischer: No more Mosques. Ever.
Luckily, up in Erie, there's a Democrat with a spine. Wereschagin again:
"While I understand that emotions are running strong in regard to the Muslim community center in New York City, it's neither the government's nor an elected official's place to tell any religious group where they can or cannot practice their faith," [Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Erie] said. "Our Founding Fathers came to America to escape religious persecution.Nice to see some backbone. Maybe Jason Altmire can borrow it sometime.
"I believe very strongly in the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom, and I will not throw our Constitution or core values aside simply because it is an election year."
Kathleen Parker had some good things to say on Park51:
The mosque should be built precisely because we don't like the idea very much. We don't need constitutional protections to be agreeable, after all.And finally:
This point surpasses even all the obvious reasons for allowing the mosque, principally that there's no law against it. Precluding any such law, we let people worship when and where they please. That it hurts some people's feelings is, well, irrelevant in a nation of laws. And, really, don't we want to keep it that way?
Ultimately, when sensitivity becomes a cudgel against lawful expressions of speech or religious belief -- or disbelief -- we all lose.Land of the free, home of the brave.
*Again, it's really not really a mosque. It's a community center with a prayer room in it. It's also not at Ground Zero but a few blocks away. And before you say, "Oy! Again with the Mosque!" All I can say is, "Pittgirl has her pigeons, I have this."