Religious Freedom and the Mosque and Community Center
In a unanimous vote yesterday New York City's historic landmarks commission voted to withhold historic protection from the downtown building slated to become a Muslim community center (called Park51) two block north of Ground Zero. Groups opposed to the center tried to block its progress by having the building declared a historic landmark. While some concerns merit answers, the protests against mosques and Muslim community centers across the country demonstrate that beneath this issue lies the question of religious freedom in America. The implications should concern us not only as Americans, but also as Christians.
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The Park51 community center, based on the same model as YMCA, will likely include a gym, meeting and conference space, 9/11 memorial, prayer and meditation space, and a large auditorium. It is located on Park Place, two blocks from both the World Trade Center and Town Hall. The Cordoba Initiative, leaders of the project, call it, "a way to amplify the voices of moderate Muslims against extremism, as well as create a space for building peace and tolerance between faiths."
However, opposition has been vocal. People across America are afraid. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have shaken our sense of safety as a country and forced us to evaluate who we are as a nation. That fear can be manifested in many ways, some of which inappropriately targets Muslim Americans, many of whom have a sense of patriotism for this country.
As an American, I know that the very idea of religious freedom, safeguarded by the first amendment, is at risk. As a Christian, I recognize that acting in fear goes against our calling to love each other as Christ loves us.
The Bible is clear about fear; while we should fear the Lord, we should not fear earthly things. We read in 1 John 4:18, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear