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You cannot read the paper or turn on the TV this past couple of weeks without hearing about the controversy brewing in lower Manhattan regarding plans to erect a Muslim community center/place of worship two blocks from the site of the fallen Twin Towers. I share the view of many of my fellow liberals that adherence to our American ideals of freedom of religion demands that the “Ground Zero Mosque”, as it has been called, be allowed to go forward.
However there is some consternation among my liberal friends concerning another exercise of First Amendment rights about to take place on August 28, in Washington, D.C. You see that date is sacred to a good number of people because on that day in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
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This year on August 28, gold coin huckster and Fox News carnival barker Glenn Beck will hold a gathering in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Beck will deliver a speech, supposedly updating King’s message for modern application. Also on hand will be former Alaska Governor and VP candidate Sarah Palin. Some liberals find this incredibly distasteful and while I haven’t heard anyone call for the event’s prohibition, there is considerable discontent regarding it.
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However, Princeton University Professor Melissa Harris Lacewell made a key point on MSNBC’s “Hardball” tonight. We cannot, on the one hand protect Muslim’s right to worship consistent with local law and zoning ordinances and in the next breath prevent Glenn Beck from airing his views in a public forum provided he has obtained the appropriate permits. To give the green light to Muslims but to block Beck because we find his message, and choice of venue and date offensive, makes us hypocrites, plain and simple. “Hardball” host, Chris Matthews seemed visibly irritated by Ms. Lacewell’s excellent analysis.
There is a simple bottom line folks. You either support the First Amendment or you don’t. One of the by products of living in a free democracy is hearing and seeing things that might disturb you. It’s the price you pay for getting the freedom to say things that might disturb others. It’s the American way.