Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A long awaited statement of principle


- After skirting the controversy for weeks, President Barack Obama is weighing in forcefully on the mosque near ground zero, saying a nation built on religious freedom must allow it.

"As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country," Obama told an intently listening crowd gathered at the White House Friday evening to observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

"That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances," he said. "This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable."

It was quite a relief to hear the President reaffirm our basic rights to religious freedom in the U.S. It was too bad he left Mayor Bloomberg and others twisting in the wind for so long. The other day I was reflecting on just how remarkable it is to enjoy true religious freedom. This freedom is inherently controversial. We need to protect people's right to build synagogues, churches, mosques, and Buddhist temples. Equally important, we need to prevent Christians, Buddhists, or anyone else from forcing public school teachers or nurses to promote their doctrines. The U.S. will lose very much if popular sentiment against any religious group (or against atheists for that matter) is allowed to sway public officials to abandon their duty to uphold the separation of church and state. Here in Rhode Island this principle has been upheld from the days of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson. Rhode Islanders are rightly proud of their diverse and tolerant heritage. Of course, even Rhode Island has bigots, but I'm grateful to live in a place that celebrates its ethnic and religious diversity.

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