Saturday, August 21, 2010

The First Amendment

Things have been busy here since my last post. I thought that with a couple of weeks off of school, I'd be able to get a lot of drawing done and update the heck out of this thing, but ultimately things just got busy, and I found myself hardly at home. In any case, maybe school will bring a little stability to things as the semester begins on Monday.

So while I haven't made the most of the "sketchblog" aspect of this page, I am going to make some use on my political thoughts. The last few days have brought about quite a few developments, all of which I think are absolutely ludicrous.

One most recently is the continued rumor that President Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim. In the AP report I just cited, it states that Pew Research found 18% of Americans think the President is a Muslim. This in spite of affirmation after affirmation after affirmation that the President is a Christian.

Even Reverend Franklin Graham, who muddies the waters a bit in stating that Obama was born a Muslim, admits that "[Obama] has renounced Islam, and he has accepted Jesus. That's what he has said he has done. I cannot say that he hasn't, so I just have to believe the president is what he has said,” further stating that "...the president says he is a Christian, and we just have to accept it as that.”

I have two large problems with this whole thing. First, since when was a religious litmus test instituted for the Presidency? The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, be that Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or whatever. When Mitt Romney was running for the Republican Presidential ticket, questions were raised regarding his LDS faith, and whether he was qualified for the Presidency because of it, culminating in Romney's speech on the matter. Many people were upset on the matter. Why should it matter if Romney is a Mormon?

Which brings me to my second point: why should it matter if Obama were a Muslim. Which he's not. But if he were, why should it matter. Yes, faith plays an important role in people's lives if they ascribe to a theological belief, but I believe our country was founded in a way to prevent the Presidency from operating as a theocracy. It would, I believe, actually be unconstitutional. So should Romney be elected to the Presidency, or a Muslim, or the Pope, according to our laws, theocratic rule would be impossible. I think people actually fear that religion would be forced on them in some way. It won't, and can't. The First Amendment strictly prohibits that. But it also grants people to worship as they choose. So they can choose Catholicism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Evangelical Christianity, Islam, Scientology, Judaism, or whatever else. Or nothing at all. That's their right. And since there is no religious requirement for the Presidency, if a person meets the qualifications to become president, they can do so. Obama meets these requirements. He's a natural born citizen, over 35 years old, and resided in the U.S. for fourteen years. Qualified, Muslim or not.

(He's a Christian.)

Second is this whole mosque at Ground Zero debate. To begin, this is factually inaccurate. The "mosque" is actually an Islamic cultural center, and it's two blocks from where Ground Zero stands. The outrage is over the fact that it's an Islamic center, and Muslims orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.

What strikes me the hardest is tying over one billion people, who largely denounced and denounce acts of terrorism, with the actions of a few radicals with twisted ideas of what Islam is. Anyone who attends the cultural center didn't plan out the 9/11 attacks, and they certainly didn't execute them. Yet the cultural center is being labeled as insensitive to those who suffered on 9/11.

While I can understand this to a degree, I fundamentally disagree. You can't tell me that, out of the three thousand who died on 9/11 -- in New York City, no less -- there wasn't one innocent person that died that wasn't Muslim. Or that no one that suffered injuries in the aftermath wasn't a Muslim. There is no way that I find that plausible. Arguably, every American suffered that Tuesday morning, and in the days that passed, including members of the American Islamic community. So Muslim Americans suffered, too. As much as you can't equate Islam at large with the few who carried out 9/11, you can't exclude them from those that suffered because of those madmen's attacks.

So it comes down to, "should they build a 'mosque' near Ground Zero." That's much more debatable, but regardless, it's their right. First Amendment guaranteed. The President, a Constitutional Law scholar, declared this same thing late last week. The right to build an Islamic cultural center falls under freedom of religion. If all other laws and ordinances are followed, the American Islamic community has every right to build a cultural center or a mosque near or far from Ground Zero, just as the Christian community has a right to build a church or the Jewish community a synagogue.

Finally, we come to Freedom of Speech, also guaranteed under the First Amendment. Let's wind the clock back a little bit. A while ago, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel found himself in hot water for using the "R-word" in a private meeting. Sarah Palin, who's youngest son has Down's syndrome, rightfully took offense to its usage. We all should. There is no need to use that word in a derogatory manner.

What was ridiculous, though, was when Palin gave Rush Limbaugh a pass for doing the same thing. Clearly, both have the right do say what they want under the First Amendment, but should they? And what makes it okay, really, for Rush to use the "R-word," and not Rahm?

Recently, Dr. Laura Schlessinger used the "N-word" eleven times, on air, discussing interracial relations with a caller. The controversy ultimately led to the cancellation of her show. She claims she's been unfairly censored, but ask just about anyone in the country, and they'll tell you that it's not okay to use the "N-word." Strangely enough though, Sarah Palin stepped up to Schlessinger's defense

The hypocrisy here is astounding. The "N-word" has a long and ugly history in US English. There are calls to abolish it completely from our language. Is Sarah Palin really defending someone's right to use it?

I suppose, under the letter of the law, we are protected in using it. That doesn't make it right. But it's also not right to call for Rahm Emmanuel to be fired, and then give Limbaugh and Schlessinger a pass and cite the First Amendment, particularly in the latter's case. 

Which brings me to my conclusion. I think I'm starting to really think that some people who are rallying around the Constitution really don't understand it at all. I'm not claiming that I do, but I understand that freedom of religion means that anyone, regardless of their theological beliefs (or lack thereof), has a right to be President if they meet the Constitutional requirements, and that freedom of speech, whether what is said is right or not, applies to everyone, not just those that you agree with politically. You can't proclaim the Second Amendment wholeheartedly, and then pick and choose what you want to adhere to when it comes to the First Amendment.

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