Setting The Straw Man Afire

Well, I just watched the umpteenth debate over the Ground Zero mosque (well, “Muslim Community Center and mosque just coincidentally around the corner from Ground Zero, where debris from one airliner landed, and a considerable distance from any residential community,” but I’ll use “Ground Zero Mosque” for brevity), and it went just like every other argument about it has gone so far: the defenders have cited the mosque builders’ 1st Amendment right as a game-ender. They seem to believe that by bringing up the Constitution, they have ended the debate.

And, legally, they’re correct. There is absolutely no legal ground for denying the building of the mosque. (There are issues relating to the construction, but those are technically not related to its status as a religious structure — zoning, financing, and the like.)

But the argument itself is utterly specious, because virtually no one is arguing against the mosque on those grounds. They aren’t challenging it legally, but on the fields of morality and propriety and tolerance and respect.

According to the mosque backers, if something is a Constitutional right, then its exercise cannot be challenged or even questioned.

Well, that’s not entirely right. That only holds true for THEIR rights. I’d be curious to hear the mosque builders’ views on blasphemy laws, or the Mohammed cartoons, or Koran desecration, or any of a host of other places where Islam conflicts with traditional expressions of free speech. Because the use of governments to enforce Islamic dictates and tenets is the hallmark of any place where Islam gains power.

But let’s take that and run with it a moment, however. The notion that if something is a Constitutional right, then it can not be challenged or even questioned. It must be accepted.

No, not just accepted. It must be embraced. And to even speak critically of such exercises is fundamentally un-American.

Exercises such as:

–Holding protests at military funerals. That is clearly covered by the 1st Amendment, under free assembly, petition for redress of grievances, and free speech.

–Burning the American flag. Free speech, again. There can be laws regarding open fires and ownership of said flags, but not the act itself.

–Questioning Obama’s citizenship. It’s all free speech, after all.

–Use of epithets and “insensitive” language. If you wanna toss off terms like nigger, kike, spic, wop, fag, cunt, chink, dyke, raghead, dothead, gook, nip, or whatever, go ahead. Speak freely!

Of course, that is all absurd. The Bill of Rights is very specific. It doesn’t offer any absolute guarantees. The First Amendment specifically says “Congress shall make no law.”

That means that the federal government can not infringe on those rights, and the exercise thereof. And, through the Supremacy Clause, that restriction also holds on the other levels of government — state and local. And, by inference, it’s also binding on the other two branches of the federal government, and their equivalents at the other levels.

But it has no effect on the individuals. We can respond to the speech of others with our own speech. We can denounce and argue and dispute and squabble all we want over these matters.

Also, the First Amendment does not guarantee freedom from consequences. For example, my little string of expletives could end up with me getting a rather unhappy e-mail or phone call from Kevin, as well as unpleasant comments below. For another, if I do something like flip off my boss at work, I can expect to get disciplined or even fired.

(Personal note: I’ve actually done that one. Years ago, one of my bosses walked up to me and repeated the company’s latest advertising slogan, which was an invitation to… well, speak freely. I responded with a double bird-flipping. He just sighed, smiled, shook his head, and walked off. But I digress…)

Yes, the builders of the mosque have the legal right to do so. They keep saying it, even though no one has seriously challenged them. What those of us opposing it say is that it is grossly offensive, insensitive, arrogant, and inappropriate at that place, at this time.

Those are the arguments they won’t answer.

Those are the arguments they can’t answer.

President Obama's mosque comments overwhelm news that mosque planners were "open" to talking about moving away from Ground Zero
Muslims question the intent of the Ground Zero Mosque