Herman Cain and the First Amendment
Herman Cain doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of the First Amendment. While I recognize that not everyone shares my expansive view of what freedom of religion entails, I tend to believe we all generally accept a few things as fact. One is that banning religion and religious centers is wrong, even if we disagree with everything that religion teachers. Presidential Candidate Herman Cain? Not so much.
After once saying that he disagreed with the opening of a mosque in Tennessee, describing it as “It is an infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion,” he now says that communities should be able to ban mosques.
In an exchange on “Fox News Sunday,” the Republican presidential contender said that he sided with some in a town near Nashville who were trying to prevent Muslims from worshiping in their community.
“Our Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state,” he said. “Islam combines church and state. They’re using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their morals in that community, and the people of that community do not like it. They disagree with it.”
Asked by host Chris Wallace if any community could ban a mosque if it wanted to, Cain said: “They have a right to do that.”
First, the existence of Islam in this nation doesn’t violate the separation of church and state. Sharia law, if enforced by the courts, would but that’s not happening. Instead, a group of people in Tennessee (and of course Herman Cain) are using the force of the state to ban a religion. That is a violation of the separation of church and state.
I’m not a fan of a lot of what Islam teaches. I don’t like anything I know about Sharia law. However, perhaps Herman Cain would be better served understanding that what he’s doing is actually eroding the separation of church and state and might actually bring about the Islamaggedon he seems to fear. How do I figure that?
Well, to start with, one thing that blocks Sharia Law from ever being enacted here is the separation of church and state. The same separation that prevents Christians from requiring Bible studies in public schools also prevents laws that ban the eating of pork for religious reasons. It serves as a bulwark against any form of theocracy.
However, Cain’s efforts to use the force of state in religious matters chips away at just that separation. You see, Cain’s not arguing that the location is bad. At least the debate over the so-called Ground Zero mosque hinged on its specific location, not the existence of the mosque in general. Cain, on the other hand, is saying that Murfreesboro, TN is able to decide what religions are acceptable to practice within a given geographical area.
May will argue that there’s nothing wrong with that. They’ll say that a community has the rights to set its own standards. But let’s flip this around. What if this was a majority Muslim community that was refusing to permit a Baptist church from opening? Would it be acceptable then?
Somehow, I doubt it…and I would agree. I don’t want government deciding what places of worship I have to choose from. Instead, I’d rather the market place of ideas take care of that for me. I want to be a Hari Krishna, but there are no Hari Krishna places of worship? So be it, but only if it’s because I’m the only Hari Krishna in town and not because someone decided I needed to either be a Christian, a Jew, or nothing.