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Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D.

Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D.

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Religious Freedom is Only for Christians?

Posted: 03/29/11 09:00 AM ET

I'm an unabashed fan of the Texas Freedom Network. Their concise mission statement clearly explains what they're all about: "The Texas Freedom Network advances a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the religious right."

And the first paragraph of their extended mission statement pleases me every time I read it:

Founded in 1995, the Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of more than 45,000 religious and community leaders. Based in Austin, the Texas Freedom Network acts as the state's watchdog, monitoring far-right issues, organizations, money and leaders. The organization has been instrumental in defeating initiatives backed by the religious right in Texas, including private school vouchers and textbook censorship at the Texas State Board of Education.

Furthermore, although their activities are focused on Texas, their impact is certainly far greater. The critical issues they raise about religious freedom and the work they undertake to protect the integrity of public education has an effect on citizens across the United States.

They also distribute a daily email update listing important articles on these topics from around the world. But as much as I resonate with all that the Texas Freedom Network is attempting to accomplish, I've been having a problem with them of late. The simple fact is that their daily email update has begun to depress me enormously!

The attacks on our freedoms that they regularly bring to light are simply amazing -- and incredibly troubling. Let me share the latest egregious affront they've brought to my attention. On March 25 they highlighted a rant published by Bryan Fischer who claims that First Amendment protections do not apply to Islam. It would be bad enough if Fischer were just a random blogger expressing misinformed hatred toward members of a religion he didn't understand. But Fischer is far more important than that. He is the director of issues analysis for the American Family Association (AFA), he hosts Focal Point, a talk show on American Family Radio, and posts regularly on the AFA-run blog Rightly Concerned.

Fischer's claims are breathtakingly inane. Rather than paraphrasing what he had to say, let me quote him directly so there's no misunderstanding, although given the piece's title, "Islam and the First Amendment: privileges but not rights," I don't think misunderstanding is possible.

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.

Let me repeat that last part just to be certain that it wasn't overlooked: "From a constitutional point of view, Muslims have no First Amendment right to build mosques in America."

This extreme position isn't an aberrant thought of Fischer's, unrelated to anything else he has written. Nor is it the most extreme thing he's had to say on the rights of Muslims in the United States. In fact, on April 10, 2010, he published an essay entitled "Time to restrict Muslim immigration to U.S., send them back home."

Again, I think it is important to permit Fischer to speak for himself.

The most compassionate thing we can do for Americans is to bring a halt to the immigration of Muslims into the U.S. This will protect our national security and preserve our national identity, culture, ideals and values. Muslims, by custom and religion, are simply unwilling to integrate into cultures with Western values and it is folly to pretend otherwise. In fact, they remain dedicated to subjecting all of America to sharia law and are working ceaselessly until that day of Islamic imposition comes.

The most compassionate thing we can do for Muslims who have already immigrated here is to help repatriate them back to Muslim countries, where they can live in a culture which shares their values, a place where they can once again be at home, surrounded by people who cherish their deeply held ideals. Why force them to chafe against the freedom, liberty and civil rights we cherish in the West?

In other words, simple Judeo-Christian compassion dictates a restriction and repatriation policy with regard to Muslim immigration into the U.S.

How can this sort of hatred be helpful? That Fischer is a Christian clergy member and a spokesperson for the AFA, a group that claims it "exists to motivate and equip individuals to restore American culture to its moral foundations" and "defends the rights of conscience and religious liberty from infringement by government and from subjugation in popular culture," makes his position the height of hypocrisy. That Fischer's hatred has not been condemned by the AFA and that he continues as one of their major spokespeople, should tell all of us all we need to know about the AFA.

As depressed as the Texas Freedom Network's updates often make me, I am deeply grateful that they exist. We need to be aware of the vile filth that is being spread in the name of religion and about the core principles of the United States. If, collectively, we take action to combat the hatred being spread by people like Bryan Fischer and the American Family Association, we can actually build a healthier and more harmonious society. As so many before me have said, hate is not a Christian value -- and we shouldn't let it become an American value either.

 
 
 

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