Saturday, July 16, 2011

Herman Cain: Permitting Muslims to Build Mosque Infringes My Religious Freedom

As 2011 began, I noted that I had begun to see a new subject-changing rhetorical ploy on the part of Catholic church leaders and the religious (and political) right in general: this is the argument (which Pope Benedict developed in his 2011 World Peace Day statement) that religious freedom is the most fundamental human right of all, and that the religious freedom of believers trumps the alleged rights of anyone who illicitly claims rights that a religious body refuses to recognize on the grounds of its faith claims.

This argument has persisted in official Catholic statements throughout the year--about same-sex civil unions in Illinois and the "right" of Catholic groups receiving state funding to ignore anti-discrimination laws of the state as they take funding; about marriage equality in New York and the "right" of Catholic leaders, in the name of religious freedom, to deny gay citizens their right to civil marriage; about the "right" of Christian hotel owners to discriminate in the area of sexual orientation even when laws prohibit such discrimination, etc.

Each time I hear a sample of this boneheaded argument that the religious freedom of believers trumps the alleged rights of others, and it does so just because we believers say so, I think the argument can't possibly get stupider.  I do think, however, that Herman Cain's recent diatribe against a projected mosque in Tennessee takes the cake: Cain argues that permitting the Islamic community in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to build a mosque is "an infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion."

Yes, that's what he said: allowing another religious group to exercise its freedom of religion by building a place of worship must be forbidden because my group's religious freedom is outraged by your alleged "right" to worship freely!   It just can't get any sillier.  And any meaner.

The religious right needs to find some better arguments to justify its demand that it be permitted to discriminate freely any time it feels like discriminating.  Just because.  Because it says it has the right to discriminate, and anyone challenging that right is challenging the notion of religious freedom itself.  Because my right to discriminate in the name of God overshadows any and all rights you want to place on the table, if I say it does. 

Lord, save us from your followers.

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