Just when you thought the Democrats could not go lower in the public’s esteem, the Speaker calls for an investigation of those who oppose the Ground Zero mosque, a portion of our population which runs north of 200 million Americans if polls are to be believed:
The melt-down of the Democrats on the issue generally, and of the left-wing commentariat specifically, is as remarkable as it is disturbing. The rather uncontroversial desire of a large majority of Americans to assure that Ground Zero not be exploited for “messaging” by any group has been seized on by Mayor Bloomberg, the president and now the Speaker as a bat with which to beat that supermajority as bigots and haters. The sheer numbers of the opposition has pushed the Speaker into paranoia about the subject.
As I conveyed in my draft “stump speech” yesterday, the November elections will be fought primarily on the mess that the president and his Congressional captains have made of the economy, the disaster that is Obamacare, and the deficit volcano.
But increasing numbers will join in the effort to toss out Democrats from top to bottom because of the three “social issues” of border security, marriage and the mosque, and not just because of the substance of the issues, but because so many among the Democrats have decided to denounce their political opponents on these matters as bigoted haters.
This wild escalation in rhetoric suggests that a kind of panicked political madness has overcome the Democrats as they study the polling numbers. They are anticipating their reaction on November 3 and giving early vent to their fury at the voters for not agreeing to blame Bush some more.
John Schroeder at Article VI Blog has noted the extreme venom that has marked the attack on mosque opponents, but he should add that those who are now quick to hurl the charge of “bigot” were either participants in or silent during the outpouring of anti-Mormon bigotry during campaign 2008.
The most appalling of many examples of the anti-LDS rage was Slate’s Jacob Weisberg’s December 2006 attack on Romney’s religion —“Romney’s Religion: A Morman President? No Way?”– but there were many other such outbursts from the left and the right, but very few if any of the mosque defenders from today said a word about it then or since. (I don’t know if Weisberg has denounced opponents of the mosque as bigots,but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me.) It was politically convenient then to allow and encourage the attacks on the religion of a GOP candidate, but now it is judged politically useful by the left to side with the GZM and stand, for a while, on the side of “religious tolerance.” (As Rush pointed out yesterday, this tolerance will not extend, even for a day, to faith-based protesters of abortion outside of clinics.)
There isn’t a principle about religious freedom at work on the left. Indeed, most of the declarations about the Free Exercise clause have been wildly off the mark, and the president’s ringing “The writ of the Founders must endure!” from Friday night is as vacuous as any of them.
The trouble is that opposition to one mosque in one place does not a bigot make, though certainly there are anti-Muslim bigots in America. The various straw men put forward and beaten down by Bloomberg et al serve only to deepen the anger of those opposed to one mosque in one place because of their concern over the politicization of Ground Zero, and the other line –taken by Pelosi in the comments above– that the mosque at Ground Zero is a “local land use decision”– is instantly understood as not only quite obviously absurd but also political cowardice, especially after the president entered the debate.
As a lawyer who has long represented churches and religious schools in land use disputes, the basic law is this: The government may not constitutionally treat one proposed religious land use differently from similarly situated other religious land uses, and the government may not single out religious land uses for discriminatory treatment in ways that uniquely burden those uses.
By contrast, the government can and does zone land to serve the general good,and in the course of doing that, it may treat religious land uses as one category of land use that will be treated in specific ways, provided those ways are not intended to burden or discriminate against that class of land uses or a particular denomination.
Thus New York City or the state or even the federal government could chose to protect the entire area around and including Ground Zero from all uses that are intended to exploit proximity of the hallowed ground to send messages of any sort. None of these governments could single out the Muslim faith for special burdens or prefer a different faith seeking a shrine nearby.
Neutral principles fairly applied are the heart of Free Exercise Clause’s protection of religious land uses.
This approach is, for the benefit of the president’s speech writers, a fairly recent development. “The writ of the Founders” did not, for example, stop the attempted extermination of the LDS church in the 19th century.
For those genuinely curious about how courts have dealt with conflicts concerning proposed religious-themed land use projects ,there is a pretty comprehensive list of recent cases and controversies at RLUIPA.com, a project of the Beckett Fund.
Speaker Pelosi’s latest display of bizarre thinking should serve to remind voters that every vote for every Democratic member of Congress is a vote for Nancy Pelsoi to remain as Speaker.
If you would like to take the gavel from her increasingly obviously unsteady hands, send a contribution to www.NRSC.org.
UPDATE: Powerline’s Scott Johnson confesses. The first of many to seek the Speaker’s mercy.