Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sen. Hatch Supports the "Ground Zero Mosque"

Senator Hatch went on Fox 13 and defended the right of Muslims to build their mosque/cultural center in lower Manhattan.  Here's the video:

Here is part of what he said:
HATCH: Let’s be honest about it, in the First Amendment, religious freedom, religious expression, that really express matters to the Constitution. So, if the Muslims own that property, that private property, and they want to build a mosque there, they should have the right to do so. The only question is are they being insensitive to those who suffered the loss of loved ones?  We know there are Muslims killed on 9/11 too and we know it's a great religion. . .  But as far as their right to build that mosque, they have that right.

I just think what's made this county great is we have religion freedom.  That’s not the only thing, but it’s one of the most important things in the Constitution. [...]

There’s a question of whether it’s too close to the 9/11 area, but it's a few blocks away, it isn't right there. . .  And there’s a huge, I think, lack of support throughout the country for Islam to build that mosque there, but that should not make a difference if they decide to do it.  I'd be the first to stand up for their rights.
It's about time a prominent Mormon politician does the right thing on this issue, and amazingly it was Sen. Hatch.  Mitt Romney and Harry Reid both gave spineless answers giving in to the fearmongering of anti-Islamists trying to destroy true religious freedom in America.  So, though it horrifies me to say it, thank you Sen. Hatch for doing the right thing.  For a few moments I'm going to be proud you are my Senator.  Let's just sit quietly and enjoy it for a while.

Update:  For anyone who wishes to add their voice in defense of the proposed mosque in Manhattan, consider joining the Facebook group "Mormons Who Support a Mosque Near Ground Zero."

Friday, August 27, 2010

How To Write A Rough Draft

I've written lots in my life.  Between majoring in English and going to law school and being a lawyer and inexplicably keeping up this blog, I've written thousands of documents in my life.  So I've developed a few strategies I find useful to help the process along.  One of these strategies is the Rough Draft.  In the Rough Draft I'll outline an argument, throw in a few sentences that hit on major ideas I need to flesh out, and generally set the course for what I want to say.  From there I will polish and shine.  But a good Rough Draft is indispensable.

Which bring us, of course, to the Daily Herald, which believes so fully in this writing strategy that they use it exclusively in their publishing activities.  The Rough Draft, in their capable hands, becomes the Final Draft.  Case in point, this little gem called Utah ponders fed handout (lack of capitalization in the title after first word: theirs).

I often make unsupported claims in a Rough Draft with little notes to myself to verify this or find examples or add citation.  This way I can plot out the argument I want to make up front but fill in the detail after some more research and thought.  If I find my unsupported claim remains unsupported after research, I drop it and work around it.  But when the Rough Draft is your Final Draft, as in this "article," no such follow up work is required, which is convenient.  I've recreated this article in proper Rough Draft form:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Culture of War

Glenn Greenwald has documented the increased desire of America to bomb Yemen.  Jeffrey Goldberg has documented the increased American desire to bomb Iran.  President Obama has committed to escalating the unwinnable war in Afghanistan.  Even though we are told that the combat mission in Iraq is coming to a close, there are still 50,000 troops there and combat will likely continue for a long time.  Meanwhile, experts are warning America that our reaction against the inaccurately-named "ground zero mosque" is fueling extremists.

We are caught in a self-defeating cycle.  Some Islamic extremists hate America and want to hurt us.  So America takes military action against Muslims.  So more Muslims hate America and want to harm us.  So America does something else against Muslims.  So they are more enraged and hate us more.  So we react again.  And so on.  If one didn't know any better one might be inclined to think that we are purposefully created conditions that would justify our ongoing military presence in the Middle East.  But that would be silly.

In any case, we can either let this go on indefinitely until we have an all-out world war on our hands or we can step back and try to regain our sanity and perspective by trying out the role of peacemaker for a while.  We can either be a country that is more and more reliant on a massive military-industrial complex or we can choose to disentangle ourselves from foreign intrigue as George Washington presciently advised.

Frankly, though, I find it slightly terrifying how many people in America support escalating our military presence in the Muslim world.  They are positively gleeful at the thought of bombing Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Iran, and Yemen, oh and Pakistan.  I don't want to live in a world where war is the preferred way to solve our difficult international problems, but that's where we're headed if we don't start actively opposing it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

President Obama as a Muslim and Religious Tests

How one in five Americans view the President
A recent Pew poll showed that 18% of Americans think Pres. Obama is a Muslim, 34% correctly think he is a Christian, and a whopping 43% say they don't know.  There are various interpretations of where this misinformation is coming from, ranging from a right-wing effort to cast doubt on the president's Christianity to the president's failure to tackle the issue head-on to the fact that some (many?) Americans are just stupid.  Of course it is a combination of all of these.

The poll gets to an issue Americans have struggled with for a long time: whether the religion of our president and elected leaders should even matter at all.  George W. Bush famously claimed that God told him to invade Iraq (I'm thinking I worship a different God than him), Ronald Reagan was distinctly irreligious, Bill Clinton was actively religious but of course that was muddied by his personal, shall we say, indiscretions.  We know all of this, and much more, because we tend to care a great deal about the religions of our presidents and elected leaders.

Another recent poll, this one from Gallup, showed that one-fourth of Americans wouldn't vote for a Mormon, and over half wouldn't vote for an atheist.  A Fox poll showed about the same numbers and also showed that Americans would be even a little less likely to vote for a Muslim than a Mormon.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When Minority Trumps Majority

2nd Grade. Mrs. Jensen says "Raise your hand if you want to play dodgeball." Okay, I raise my hand, along with a few other kids. She continues "Now raise your hand if you want to play basketball." In 2nd grade I was a pretty wiry, spastic kid. Perfect for playing dodgeball, but not basketball.

More hands were raised for basketball than for dodgeball. Despite our valid arguments that basketball had been played in both of the previous PE sessions, Mrs. Jensen's simple response was: "Sorry, majority rules." Lesson learned. If you want to play your game, get the majority to agree with you. Such a concept is the cornerstone of democratic government. The system is designed to have the supreme power bestowed in the people, and exercised through their voice, or through the voice of officials which the people have elected. Whether electing officials, passing law, or ratifying The Constitution, a majority is required at some level. Sometimes "majority" means the highest percantage of the votes. Sometimes it means that at least 2/3 of the voters agree. Regardless, majority rules.

In a recent poll from CNN, 68% of responders are opposed to the building of an Islamic mosque near ground zero. In addition, some democrats (according to some sources a majority of 54%) oppose the construction, among them is Majority Leader Harry Reid. So there it is, plain and simple. Majority rules and so the mosque should not be built.

The problem is, it's just not that simple. Naturally, the first argument for a mosque being built is likely going to be the First Amendment to The Constitution, which states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Of course, at this point, congress has not come out and tried to pass a law that will prevent the construction of the mosque/cultural center. Harry Reid's statement is that "The First Amendment protects freedom of religion,” said Reid spokesman Jim Manley in a statement. “Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.” This sentiment seems to be shared with most of those that oppose the construction of the mosque, i.e. They have the right to build it, just build it somewhere else. As Sarah Palin puts it in a recent Tweet "We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?"

Apparently, building a place of worship and a center that is designed to improve cultural and religious interaction and understanding is not acceptable because the general public is still under the delusion that Muslims are the enemy and the culprits in the 9/11 attacks. It wouldn't be fair to the victims of the attacks; it defiles the "hallowed" ground where they died.

In contrast, there are many supporters of the proposed Islamic center. President Obama made the statement "...as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country." Likewise, the political and social activitist, Fareed Zakaria, was so adamant about supporting construction that he returned a prestigious award to the ADL after they came out against its construction. These people, however powerful or well-known, still constitute a minority of the population.

So who is right? Does the majority always rule, or are there some cases when the minority trumps? As a member of a religious group, this one hits close to home. I think of the 11th Article of Faith:

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Not only are we required to allow all people to worship what and how they want, but also where they want. I personally feel that some of the impetus for this Article came from the discrimination experienced by the early (1800s) church in Independence, Far West, Nauvoo, etc. Opposition for the early church stemmed in the economic influence and ideological differences. The culmination of the intolerance came in the "extermination order" issued by the Governor of the state of Illinois at the behest of the majority. "[For their]
open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this State ... the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description." Majority rules, and the Mormons were expelled to another location. Apparently the citizens of Illinois and Missouri that opposed the establishment of Mormonisms cared about the "how" "where" and the "what", and therefore used the power of the majority to remove them. Perhaps there is evidence somewhere that demonstrates that a few radical members of the LDS church were responsible for certain crimes; however, the Church has never supported illegal activity or hostel treatment of others.

Should the rights of the minority trumped the desires of the majority in the case of early Mormon history? Was it acceptable to prevent a religious group from building places of worship in "your backyard" because the majority of citizens were ignorant or biased?

Should the rights of the minority trump the desires of the majority in the case of Muslims present-day? Is it acceptable to prevent a religious group from building a place of worship in "your backyard" because the majority of citizens are ignorant or biased?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Don't Be Afraid of Different Political Ideas

I don't consider myself a socialist, though many of the modern far right might disagree with this self-assessment.  But I also don't consider socialism to be evil and parallel to the plan of Satan.  In my first substantive post on this blog I made the point, and I stick by it, that good  members of the church can be found in hundreds of nations around the world supporting many different types of governments, including many that consider themselves socialists.  I can understand some of the pull socialism exerts on people and I can understand some of the critiques.  I can't understand demonizing members and non-members alike that espouse it.

All of this brings me to the site called The Mormon Worker.  I became aware of this socialist Mormon blog during law school and I have read it off and on since.  I agree with a lot of what they have to say, and disagree a fair amount as well.  For quite a while I have wanted to put a link up to it on this blog because it offers a unique perspective that some members of the church may appreciate, but I am ashamed to say that for too long I have resisted providing a link because of the loud and intimidating cries from politically conservative members of the church about how evil socialism is.  I didn't agree with them, but I also didn't want to have to ever face them directly.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Glenn Beck v. The Mormon Ethic of Civility

Can you guess which is which?

The political world is astir. Economies are faltering. Public trust is waning. Individuals feel vulnerable. And social cohesion wears thin. Meanwhile, stories of rage and agitation fill our airwaves, streets and town halls. Where are the voices of balance and moderation in these extreme times?

So here you have Barack Obama going in and spending money on embryonic stem cell research. . .  Eugenics.  In case you don't know what eugencis led to; the Final Solution.  A master race!  A perfect person. . .  the stuff we are facing is absolutely frightening.
During a recent address given in an interfaith setting, Church President Thomas S. Monson declared: "When a spirit of goodwill prompts our thinking and when united effort goes to work on a common problem, the results can be most gratifying."

You self-centered, self-righteous, socialist, out-of-control, dangerous, man-hating bitch. Shut your mouth. We might have bought into this crap in the 1960s because too many people were doing LSD. We’re not on LSD anymore. You need to start making sense.

Further, former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley once said that living “together in communities with respect and concern one for another” is “the hallmark of civilization.” That hallmark is under increasing threat.

Speaking to a Muslim Congressman:  "I have been nervous about this interview with you because what I feel like saying is, "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies". . .  And I know you're not.  I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans feel that way.