I have pondered the planned Islamic cultural center and mosque near the World Trade Center for some time. I have come to the conclusion that a plan to build a Japanese pagoda or Buddhist temple near the site of the attack on Pearl Harbor would bring the same type of opposition. A plan to build either an Islamic mosque at Ground Zero or a Japanese temple near Pearl Harbor is simply unkind and insensitive to the feelings of Americans. It isn't the right thing to do!
I'll have to admit that I had a difficult time bringing my thoughts and feelings about the insensitivity of the idea in line with the words contained in the United States Constitution. Article I states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …." The words seem to be really clear to me: the government has no power to establish religion or to prohibit people from practicing their religion. In other words, the government cannot stop the erection of the Islamic building as long as all the building requirements are met.
Experience has taught me that people can stop chapels and temples from being built. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made different plans several times for building temples and chapels. Sometimes the neighbors of the planned building have caused such an uproar that the Church has sold the property and built elsewhere. This happened right here in my area when our Stake President went to the Municipality of Anchorage to obtain a permit to build a much needed new chapel. The neighbors were adamant that they did not want the increased traffic in the area that a chapel would bring. The permit was denied, and the Stake President sold that property and built a chapel in another area of the community.
When the Anchorage Alaska Temple was being planned, the neighbors could not complain about a temple being built there because a chapel was already on part of the property. That fact did not stop Church leaders from visiting with every neighbor of the property to learn of the neighbors' concerns. They did this because they wanted to maintain a good relationship with the people who live in the area. When the temple open house was held, there was a special VIP tour just for the neighbors. One of the compromises that was made with the neighborhood is that the lights on the temple and in the Church parking lot are turned off every night at 11:00.
It seems to me that when the Church planned temples in other areas that plans were changed. I think that the Church obtained other property in both Billings, Montana, and Boston, Massachusetts, because of opposition from neighbors.
The bottom line to my thinking is this: Government cannot stop the free exercise of religion, but citizens of the United States still have the right to object to the erection of church buildings. Religions that want to maintain good relationships with the community listen to the people in the neighborhood. Religions that don't care will go ahead and build no matter what the neighbors say. In the case of the mosque, the neighborhood includes all of the United States. It is only a matter of time before we learn whether or not the Islamists want to have a good relationship with Americans. If they care about how Americans feel about a mosque at Ground Zero, they will build their Islamic cultural center and mosque some place else.
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