The Eleventh Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints states, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” [emphasis added]
It is frankly shocking and disappointing that about 70 percent of Americans apparently oppose the building of an Islamic center that will include a mosque in Lower Manhattan, according to a new poll. This opposition is rooted in bigotry and in ignorance. First a few facts – the proposed Islamic center is to be built on private property located a few blocks away from the World Trade Center site. It is not going to be built on the World Trade Center site. There are two other mosques located in Lower Manhattan very close to the WTC site. They have been there for decades and have not caused any controversy.
Prominent conservatives such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich have publicly opposed the mosque. They argue that it is “insensitive” to families of 9/11 victims. Palin called it an “unnecessary provocation.” Some conservatives have gone so far as to call it a “9/11 victory mosque.” It is as if the opponents of this mosque believe that the individuals who would like to construct it had something to do with 9/11, an incredibly ridiculous and blatantly false notion. Though some 9/11 families have publicly opposed the construction of the mosque, other 9/11 families have supported it. I find it rather despicable when politicians use 9/11 as a political football. Palin and her ilk have selectively chosen to highlight the opinion of only some 9/11 families, while ignoring other 9/11 families to support their own intolerant beliefs.
Opposing the construction of this mosque because of its proximity to Ground Zero would be akin to opposing the construction of an LDS chapel in Enterprise, Utah because of its proximity to Mountain Meadow, where the 1857 massacre occurred. Enterprise is the closest town to the massacre site. The point is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints holds just as much responsibility for the Mountain Meadow Massacre as does the religion of Islam for 9/11 – that is to say, none. In both cases, members of those particular religions committed heinous crimes in the name of their religion, even while their acts were not sanctioned by their religion. Americans need to stop thinking myopically that all Muslims are terrorists. There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. Only a nano-fraction of them are involved with terrorist groups.
Latter-Day Saints are particularly familiar with this type of discrimination as we have encountered bigoted opposition to the construction of our temples all over the country, including in New York. The plan to construct a temple in White Plains, NY was eventually abandoned after opposition stopped progress at the zoning laws phase. The temple in Boston was nearly prevented from including a spire with the Angel Moroni statue on top due to local opposition, even though another church across the street has a comparably tall spire with a cross on top.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was absolutely right when he said that government has no place in saying where a house of worship should be located. Yesterday, President Barack Obama threw his support behind the construction of the mosque. At a White House dinner honoring the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a function that has been held since Thomas Jefferson was in the White House, President Obama stated:
This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are… Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam — it is a gross distortion of Islam. In fact, Al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion, and that list includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.
Muslims serve honorably in all parts of our government – in the military, in Congress, in our intelligence services, in police departments, etc. Why would we show such disrespect and intolerance for individuals who are just as much citizens of this country as anyone else? The Eleventh Article of Faith summarizes this issue better than anything else. We should truly allow our fellow citizens the right to worship “how, where, or what they may.” Those who are trying to prevent the new Lower Manhattan mosque’s construction are abandoning the principles of liberty and freedom upon which our country was founded.