Pesky old First Amendment

Published 8:34 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sometimes, being an American can be difficult.

I’m not talking about living in the land of the free and the home of the brave. That’s the good and easy part.

It’s trying to live up to the high standards that were set for us in those precious documents like the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

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Some of those amendments, like the first one, are downright pesky.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America says, “Congress shall make no law representing an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That First Amendment may be of primary importance to the foundation of these wonderful United States, but it sure can get right in the middle of what we want to do or don’t want to do.

Take the controversy up in New York City. You know that question of whether a 13-story Muslim community center is to be built in the shadows of what is known as Ground Zero. Ground Zero is a symbolic term used for the place where almost 3,000 innocent people were massacred by some crazy fanatics.

They were religious fanatics and the particular religion they followed was Islam. Actually they were terrorists or warriors and one of our questions is “Are they the rule or the exception to the rule?” There is no easy or definitive answer to that question. It depends upon whom you ask.

Ask a follower of Islam and the answer is that their religion is one of peace. Their Holy Book, the Koran, speaks of the jihad, or “great” struggle, that is within each person. Inner peace is the goal and when that inner peace is gained on an individual basis, then the world around is a better place.

Sounds good.

Yet, there is another struggle of which the Koran speaks. That is the “lesser” struggle and it is the struggle against the foes of Islam. This lesser struggle is interpreted by many within the followers of Islam as a license, even a command, to conquer the world for their God, Allah. That doesn’t seem to line up with the “live and let live” principles espoused in that First Amendment.

I know that it is not right to condemn all Muslims for the acts of a few. As a Christian, I don’t want to be lumped into the same category with someone who calls himself a Christian, yet bombs an abortion clinic or kills a doctor who performs an abortion. As much as I disagree with abortion, violence, such as that, is not the answer to that or any question.

Even though I understand the mistake in painting a faith or religion with a broad brush, and I understand that our founders, in writing our great Constitution, were putting into motion one of the greatest governmental experiments of all time, that First Amendment is difficult to swallow sometimes.

Are we at the mercy of that First Amendment?

Is the way that it is used to defend so many actions that are not good for our country really what our founders meant when they put it first and foremost in that wonderful document known as our Constitution?

Some people have used it to bring us the industry that we know as pornography. When we try to limit the use of filthy language on our public airwaves, so-called creative people cry “First Amendment.” People can knowingly tell lies about others and, instead of being prosecuted for slander, they simply say that the First Amendment gives them that right.

Our country is full of all sorts of crazy religions, all protected by the First Amendment. We write books, make films, cheat people, create havoc and tear down our country, all under its protection.

Now, figuratively, right down the street from the largest mass killing in American history, a group that would symbolize, to some, the very perpetrators of that crime, an edifice is proposed.

It is a building that will cause more division than it will togetherness. That may not be the fault of the ones who propose to build it, but it is a fact.

It’s not a done deal, although there is nothing to legally prevent them from doing it. Our First Amendment protects their right.

As an American, I am glad they have that right, but having the right to do something, doesn’t always mean it is the right thing to do. The fact that the efforts have begun in controversy probably means that the project will never bring about the peace that it desires. In addition, their desire to continue in spite of the contentiousness, leads me to consider their motives as less than admirable.

There are more than 1 billion Muslims in the world and many say it is the fastest growing religion in the world.

I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. I do know, though, that the faith that claims to be peaceful at its very roots sure has a lot of conflict and trouble surrounding it.