Last week I wondered how Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice was managing to rationalize its role in leading the opposition to the “Ground Zero Mosque” while still claiming to be a leading defender of religious freedom in America.
As it turned it, the ACLJ did it by simply claiming that the debate wasn’t about religious freedom at all.
But that excuse was laughably pathetic, and so Jay Sekulow and Brett Joshpe are back with an op-ed in the Washington Times, taking another stab at justifying themselves, claiming now that their “opposition to the ground-zero mosque reflects America’s sacrosanct First Amendment ideals.”
That’s right – the ACLJ is simply exercising its own First Amendment right to freedom of speech:
The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to do and say many things that are offensive – indeed, that is the bedrock of our constitutional system – but well-intentioned people, nonetheless, often choose not to do or say such things out of a moral concern for others. As the Anti-Defamation League eloquently wrote in its statement opposing the project, “ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right.”
We are witnessing a tidal wave of opposition from all across the nation. Americans are exercising their private First Amendment rights and expressing opposition to the ground-zero mosque. Their voices are what create that famed marketplace of ideas, and attempts to silence them through cries of bigotry and racism in the name of the First Amendment are especially ironic.
This debate, in fact, reflects the ideals of freedom, and despite the intensity and controversy of the issue, the relative civility of the discussion is a testament to American values and tolerance. No serious person has suggested banning Islam or mosques or even the freedom to practice Islam near ground zero. Instead, citizens are expressing their personal views that the location of the mosque is unnecessarily inflammatory and hurtful, given the circumstances, and that if the project’s developers seek to promote mutual respect and harmony, as they claim, they should reconsider.
Our client is one of those private citizens who believes this project is an insult to the Sept. 11 victims’ memory and their families. His right to express that view – to fight this development politically and by ensuring that administrative agencies follow their own precedents and the rule of law, and to speak with the chorus of others who find the Cordoba House mosque at ground zero inappropriate – represents the essence of a free democracy. That right is not in tension with the First Amendment; it is the First Amendment.
Wasn’t it just a few months ago when the ACLJ was fuming that Franklin Graham has been disinvited to a Pentagon National Day of Prayer event because of some past anti-Islam statements, a move which Sekulow and the ACLJ decried an act of outrageous anti-Christian bigotry?
The ACLJ claims that they are simply exercising their First Amendment right to free speech in opposing others’ First Amendment right of religious freedom … while also complaining that those who accuses them of hypocrisy or anti-Muslim bigotry are trying to prevent them from exercising their First Amendment rights … so really, they are the real victims here.
Given a convoluted justification like this, good luck trying to figure out exactly where the ACLJ stands on the question of religious freedom vs free speech.