Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Brian Levin, J.D. Headshot

Islamophobia Threatens Tea Party's Ties to Its Origins and Future

Posted: Updated:

One can't get much further from the site of the original Boston Tea Party than the city of Temecula in Southwest Riverside County's wine country. Yet, it is being connected philosophically to a contentious and disturbing dispute over the construction of a large mosque in this Inland Southern California city of 60,000 residents along Interstate 15 about 75 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

The website of a splinter group of Conservative "Tea-Party" activists, called "We The People-Citizens in Action" have called for a protest today at the site with dogs around the time of Friday prayers. Dogs near a holy place is considered an affront in Islam.

An Islamic Mosque is planned to be built in Temecula. We are holding a Singing - Praying - Patriotic rally on Friday on the side of road on Rio Nedo in Temecula. Bring your Bibles, flags, signs, dogs and singing voice on Friday to let everyone know we are a Christain (sic) community and will not tolerate Sharia law and radical behavior...

The protest calls have caused the splinter group to have a rift not only with mosque supporters, but with other "Tea-Party" followers who denounce both the protests as well as the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR, which has a laudable record of combating Islamaphobia has sponsored or cosponsored bigots like Abedl Malik Ali and neo-Nazi William Baker over the last decade without publicly condemning them. The proposed large mosque, which has been planned for many years, would be located at the site of a much smaller mosque in what is now an industrial location.

What is so striking about some of the modern Islamophobes who call themselves Patriots is how their actual views run completely afoul of our most celebrated founding fathers, whom they say they pattern themselves after. One of the blessings of liberty in America from its inception has been an embrace of the right of all to exercise their faith or lack thereof, peacefully without intrusion.

Thomas Jefferson, who was labeled an "infidel" from some Christian critics when he was seeking the Presidency in 1800, was quite clear in his call for religious freedom and tolerance. Those who oppose the plans of peaceful Muslims, or any other person of faith to pray would to well to study Jefferson's counsel. He was so proud of his accomplishment in this area that he asked that his epitaph read:

HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON
AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA.

The Virginia Religious freedom law reads in relevant part:

No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities

.

In 1802 he wrote a religious group stating:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

On the threat of those who would use religion as a cover for more nefarious conduct, Jefferson was also quite cogent:

If anything pass in a religious meeting seditiously and contrary to the public peace, let it be punished in the same manner and no otherwise as it had happened in a fair or market.

George Washington set the proper tone for religious tolerance for future Patriots in an exchange he had with congregants of the Rhode Island's Touro Synagogue in 1791:

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given 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 national gifts. 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, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
G. Washington

In the United States peaceful people of good will and faith -- or of no faith at all -- deserve nothing less than our tolerance and respect. To do less not only encroaches on their liberty, but degrades the unique gift of religious freedom the original Patriots have enshrined for all of us. The California dispute is emblematic of those in other parts of the country where mosque construction has been protested or the faith degraded by the those affiliated with the Tea-Party movement.

Tea-Party linked Tennessee Republican Governor candidate Ron Ramsey recently said, "You could argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion or is it a nationality, a way of life or cult, whatever you want to call it." A Tea-Party congressional candidate stated that a proposed mosque for Murfreesboro is, "designed to fracture the moral and political foundation of Middle Tennessee." They should know better as their home state was the birthplace of the original Ku Klux Klan, a group that would later have its greatest membership not after the Civil War, but in the 1920s when Catholic Immigrants were the primary target of their venom. While a small number of committed anti-democratic or violent fanatics are a threat to our national security, the faith of Islam as a whole is not--responsible commentators should have the judgment to understand that simple distinction. Responsible conservatives in the Tea-Party movement would serve themselves well to rightly unify not only in support of their laudable goals of transparency, fiscal responsibility and limited government, but also in their wholesale rejection of calls to religious and racial bigotry and intolerance that come from a sizable vocal minority of their constituency.