by Max Brantley
As opposition to mosques spreads across the United States, hundreds of miles from ground zero, opponents are running up against more than the nominal protection afforded religion in the Constitution. There's also the matter of federal land use legislation to heighten protection for religious institutions passed by the good Mormon Orrin Hatch. You can bet protecting Muslims wasn't part of the mission back then.
At the core is the old desire of a fervent belief in religious freedom unless it's a religion we distrust.
Opponents of new mosque construction often cite factors other than religion, like parking and traffic, when houses of worship expand. But religion often remains part of the mix. In a statement on the mosque protest in Temecula, [Calif.] William Rench, the senior pastor of the nearby Calvary Baptist Church, said, “Our primary concern is that the land adjacent to our property is wholly inadequate and unsuited for the proposed 25,000-square-foot Islamic worship center.”
The rest of the statement concerns Islam itself. “It seems logical to me that we would be opposed to Islam based on its fundamental teachings and on documented stories of the terror that radical Islam promotes,” Mr. Rench wrote.
In an interview, Mr. Rench said that questions of national and local security should override land-use rules, though in the case of the mosque next door, “I don’t think they represent the more extreme elements of Islam.” Still, he added, “how are we going to get assurances that it’s never going to be an issue?"