“But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782
I shouldn’t have to fish out that famous quote every few posts as a reminder to conservative bigots that religious freedom applies to all people, not just Christians, but I do. Maybe it is only because I am a religious minority myself, one of those who says “there are twenty gods”, that they stick so well in my mind.
Bryan Fischer says that Islam is not covered by the First Amendment because “it was not written to protect the religion of Islam.”
Are you kidding me? Let’s look at what the First Amendment says:
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.
That’s the First Amendment. Congress shall not only make no law respecting the establishment of religion (in other words, no state-sponsored religion) and it shall not prohibit the free exercise of religion. Sorry, Bryan, but the First Amendment covers ALL religions. There are no exceptions made.
What is ironic is that the AFA (American Family Association) claims that one of its founding objectives is to “defends the rights of conscience and religious liberty from infringement by government.”
Yeah, we’re just not seeing that….
Bryan Fischer, the AFA’s Director of Issues Analysis, hates Islam. As Right Wing Watch points out, he wants to:
- Deport all Muslims;
- prohibit and purge Muslims from the military;
- banning and destruction of mosques.
His most recent argument is an attempt to reconcile his position on Islam and the AFA’s avowed goals. Clearly, one contradicts the other and all Fischer has accomplished is to make clear his unreasoning hatred:
Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims, for the simple reason that it was not written to protect the religion of Islam. Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy. While there certainly ought to be a presumption of religious liberty for non-Christian religious traditions in America, the Founders were not writing a suicide pact when they wrote the First Amendment.
Our government has no obligation to allow a treasonous ideology to receive special protections in America, but this is exactly what the Democrats are trying to do right now with Islam.
From a constitutional point of view, Muslims have no First Amendment right to build mosques in America. They have that privilege at the moment, but it is a privilege that can be revoked if, as is in fact the case, Islam is a totalitarian ideology dedicated to the destruction of the United States. The Constitution, it bears repeating, is not a suicide pact. For Muslims, patriotism is not the last refuge of a scoundrel, but the First Amendment is.
We’ve already seen Jefferson’s words above, which embody the spirit under which both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written. We can also take a look at George Washington’s letter to the Jewish community of Danbury, Rhode Island:
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.
“All possess alike…” just like the Constitution says. Everybody. Not just protestants, but Jews too – and Muslims.
In an article published by Salon, Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg, professors of history at Louisiana State University, and co-authors of Madison and Jefferson, argue that Madison would be horrified by what Peter King is doing with his anti-Islamic hearings. He would doubtless by the words of Bryan Fischer.
Conservatives like to downplay the significance of the Treat of Tripoli, which states in unequivocal terms that “the Government of he United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, – as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musselmen [Muslims].” The important point here is no who put those words into the treaty but that it was signed by the president, John Adams, in those words and more important yet, ratified by Congress in those words and without a single complaint being uttered.
And it wasn’t only the Treaty of Tripoli. As Burstein and Isenberg point out, during the Tripolitan War (1801-1805) – ironically enough against what is now modern Libya – “Madison instructed the U.S. consul in Algiers to exhibit “universal toleration in matters of religion.”
So you can see where the wording in the Treaty of Tripoli come from: That spirit of universal tolerance which is embodied by both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, that universal spirit of tolerance now under attack by American Christofascists like Bryan Fischer and Peter King and others.
Islam is protected, Bryan, and so, sometimes unfortunately I think, is your Christofascism. But to turn Fischer’s words against him, when he says “Our government has no obligation to allow a treasonous ideology to receive special protections in America” these words might equally be said to apply to Christian fundamentalism, or Christofascism, as I here refer to it, “but this is exactly what the Republicans are trying to do right now with Christian fundamentalism.”