Free speech takes a hitPosted Wednesday, August 25, 2010, at 8:13 AM
Last week, we criticized those Islamaphobics who are opposing the construction of a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks.
The problem, as we saw it, was their opposition to a Constitutional right to freedom of religion. But as misguided as we believe they are -- a product we readily admit is due to the insensitivity of the mosque proponents for choosing that location -- we also believe those opponents have a fundamental constitutional right to speak their mind.
Apparently, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi disagrees. She wants to see the opponents "investigated" -- functionally harassed -- for expressing their opinion. This, in many ways, is an even worse -- and more direct -- assault on the Constitution. It reminds us of Nixon and his enemies list.
There is no right in this country more important, or more fundamental, than the right of free speech. It is the right of free speech that protects all the other rights granted in the Constitution.
You don't even have to be right, logical or fair. The Constitution doesn't care.
The Constitution doesn't take polls to decide which way the wind blows (a la Harry Reid). It doesn't bow to public sentiment. It stands like a rock against all adversity, protecting both the great and small, both the mainstream and the reviled.
There are times when some people appear to believe the Constitution is something that is merely convenient, when it supports their cause, but something they can ignore when it doesn't. But that isn't true. The Constitution stands above petty politics and endures as the very foundation of all the ideals that this country represents.
The mosque controversy began as a simple local planning and zoning issue. It was approved by a 23-1 vote. But it has become a test of our fundamental principles --both freedom of religion and freedom of expression.
It has blurred the political boundaries, with liberals like Harry Reid opposing its construction, and staunch conservatives like Ron Paul criticizing the opposition. We believe Paul has the better argument. He makes a valid distinction between a religion and religious fanatic terrorists. He stands on firm Constitutional and historical grounds, we believe.
Religious animosity has always been a part of every culture and society. There was a time in this country, for example, when states tried to block the right of Catholics to vote or hold public office. John Kennedy's bid for the presidency nearly foundered on the anti-Catholic vote. And even today, it is probably beyond the realm of possibility that Mitt Romney will ever win the Republican nomination for president -- simply because he's a Mormon.
A man's religion is in his heart, and if his heart is pure, then both he and the religion he professes are as well.
The Constitution protects all religions, not just those of the majority. That's something the opponents of the mosque have either forgotten or ignored.
But it also protects all citizens who wish to peacefully express their opinion. That's something that Pelosi seems to have either forgotten, or chosen to ignore as well. She is compounding one Constitutional error with another -- and a more grievous one.
Two wrongs, do not make a right, Mrs. Pelosi.
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