If there is any American principle I have taken for granted since I was a little boy, it is freedom of religion. And indeed, this is one area where the United States comes close to living up to its professed values. Most of the world has state-sanctioned religions and churches. In the United States, ever since the American Revolution and even before, the doctrines of religious liberty have animated the nation’s political ideals. Notably, Thomas Jefferson’s grave does not mention his presidency, yet it boasts the man’s involvement in securing the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom.
Yet something nasty has happened in this country, particularly since 9/11, and it became worse recently. I’m referring to a growing threat of intolerance against Muslims. We saw it in the controversy over the Cordoba House in downtown Manhattan—the so-called “Ground-Zero Mosque” debate. Although the Bush administration was careful rhetorically to oppose the demonization of Muslims, thus neutralizing the most vociferous religious bigots partisan to that presidency and holding their discontent beneath the surface, under Obama we have seen this ugliness unleashed into the mainstream. And we see it now in the musings of a presidential candidate being seriously touted by many conservatives as a potentially great alternative to Barack Obama, or other Republicans.
Continue reading at blog.independent.org/2011/07/17/a-troubling-disrespect-for-religious-toleration/