THE BLOG
08/18/2010 06:22 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mosque Debate Reminds Us of Uncomfortable Nature of Freedom

"As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan in accordance with local laws and ordinances.''

- President Barack Obama

The words seem innocuous enough. To the reasonable individual it would equate to an endorsement of the Constitution and its First Amendment which guaranteed freedom of religion. Yet when those same words are juxtaposed to the construction of a mosque approximately two blocks from ground zero of 9/11 in New York, they are perceived by some as endorsement instead of Islam.

When that "perceived" endorsement of Islam is also attributed to President Barack Obama, it unpacks all of the old racist baggage of the election campaign of 2008 for use against the Democrats in 2010. Some would have you believe that a mosque two blocks from the site of the deadliest terrorist act on American soil sends a message of disrespect to the memory of slain Americans and is an endorsement of Islam.

It's neither...but let's pause right there.

This is for both Democrats and Republicans. This is for the Tea Party members, moderates and even the most ardent fans of Keith Olbermann. All of you need to hear this and be dispassionately reminded of some inarguable truths. Even the loyal followers of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are in need of this reality check.

Freedom is working when it is most "uncomfortable," and the U.S. Constitution is at its best when it's tremendously inconvenient.

Freedom of religion does not come with a "Christian" caveat or an implied anti-Muslim clause. There is no fine print at the bottom of the Constitution detailing commercial zoning laws of "controversial" houses of worship in proximity to monuments. Either America is a country with unfettered religious expression or it is not. It is one or the other.

You know freedom is working in times like these because it is uncomfortable...very uncomfortable. Don't confuse something being uncomfortable with something being unfair. It's in its fairness that we find the most discomfort. When you feel uncomfortable, it's at that moment you know the Constitution and the freedom it protects is doing its job.

The 1954 Brown V. Board of Education decision paved the way for the "uncomfortable" process of public school integration.

The Little Rock 9 exemplified the nation's subsequent discomfort and history has proven that this nation was ultimately better for it.

The Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Acts of the 60s were uncomfortable for Americans, both Black and White. Neither legislation was written specifically to solely protect African-Americans nor to condemn Whites. They were specifically to ensure that the U.S. Constitution protect the rights of all American citizens at all times, without deference to race.

Historically it has been shown that freedom comes with an uncomfortable price tag; the Constitution equally inconvenient and their sometimes unpleasant natures remind us they're still doing their jobs.

Proposition 8 was recently ruled unconstitutional...the discomfort now being experienced by some would just be freedom and the Constitution again doing their jobs. It's the included cost of being a "free" country.

Back to the top...

"As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan in accordance with local laws and ordinances.''

- President Barack Obama

The construction of a mosque in the general vicinity of what was once the World Trade Center is not an affront to memories of the victims of 9/11, it's an affirmation of the American ideals which guide this country and aren't subject to convenience or compromise. Its construction would by all means be uncomfortable, yet this country stands to gain more by overcoming our petty differences. Islam did not attack America, terrorists did and we should not ever lose sight of that distinction. Terrorism is neither a sovereign nation nor an identifiable religion. It's an ideology with ties to both Christianity (KKK) as well as Islam.

Americans should be concerned any time a president would disregard the Constitution to suit the mood of the moment or cave into the pressure of a political election cycle. President Obama did the right thing. It wasn't the popular thing to do and surely did not win his party votes in November, but it was the right thing to do and the Constitution agrees.

Morris W. O'Kelly (Mo'Kelly) is author of the syndicated entertainment and socio-political column The Mo'Kelly Report. For more Mo'Kelly, http://mrmokelly.com. Mo'Kelly can be reached at mrmokelly@gmail.com and he welcomes all commentary.