Those using Facebook to network with friends are asked to provide some information about themselves, if they want to. One category is “relationship status.” Along with “single,” “married,” and “in a relationship,” there is a choice called, “It’s complicated.”
Every time I see that choice, I realize that very few relationships are uncomplicated, including the relationship we have with the United States constitution and the other founding documents.
Most recently we’ve had the dispute about the mosque that a Muslim group wants to build near the site of the World Trade Center attacks of September 11th, 2001. Most people think it’s a bad idea, but as President Obama said, our freedom of religion protects their right to build it.
I think that’s true, but it is also complicated. A lot of religious freedom issues are complicated. There is an ongoing debate about whether there should be a separation of church and state. Some say that’s what the founders intended, while others point out that a number of the original states had state religions. Pennsylvania isn’t called the “Quaker State” because of the oil, you know.
The courts are often put in the position of deciding what is, or isn’t a valid religion. If you or I decide to start a religion tomorrow, for tax benefit or in order to use otherwise illegal drugs, we probably won’t be given status as a church. And yet, churches like The Church of Scientology are seen by some as cults, and not churches. At the same time, some atheists might see mainstream religions as cult-like.
Native American religions are given the freedom to use hallucinogenic mushrooms as part of their rites, and some Christian-based sects use poisonous snakes. Things that don’t make sense in society as a whole are sometimes allowed under the protections of freedom of religion.
Elements of many churches have embraced hatred and violence, but their religious status doesn’t protect them from laws that they break. Hating people isn’t illegal, unless people act on their hatred.
That brings us back to the Mosque in Manhattan. And, once again, it’s complicated. My thinking is that the civilized world isn’t at war with Islam, but rather with a radicalized sub-sect of Islam. So, just as the Ku Klux Klan saw themselves as Christian based, radical Islam uses Muslim teachings as justification for their actions.
So, who is it that wants to build the Mosque? Where is the money coming from? Is it a peace-loving Muslim group, or are they more in synch with the radical elements who attacked us on 9-11 and continue to attack us at every opportunity? I’m sure we wouldn’t approve of a Klan “church” near the sight of a fire-bombed black community center.
I understand why some people want the Mosque not to be built near the site of the attack, and I understand why the argument is being made that it’s their right to do so. I also understand that it is much more complicated than either side will admit.