There are two rather interesting issues that have emerged lately in the political debate, issues that to my mind strike at the very core of the American ethos. Both seem to me to be rather blatant challenges to American freedoms and opportunities -- and no that issue here isn't the right to bear arms. The issues though are related. One has to do with immigration and the other with religious freedom.
It saddens me to watch as two Republican Senators, both of whom have stood at the head of the line in support of comprehensive immigration reform, back pedal and embrace the repeal of the 14th Amendment, which interestingly enough was engineered in the 1860s by leaders of the Republican party. The 14th Amendment has several parts to it, but the section relating to the current conversation reads:
Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Sen. Lindsey Graham has suggested that this provision be rolled back, because it provides opportunity for "anchor babies," a rather ugly term that suggests that women come to the US to "drop babies," another popular term -- so that they can have residency in the US. It has been rare in American history to roll back constitutional protections. The only amendment that has been passed and then repealed was Prohibition. Supporting Graham is John McCain -- also in trouble politically in his home state -- which has led him to take up causes he once opposed. Do we really want to undermine constitutional protections that make it possible for the children of immigrants to become citizens? Oh, it might be politically popular, but do we really want to go there? And let me remind readers that this Amendment was Republican sponsored and largely opposed by the Democrats of the day.
The other issue is the proposed mosque in Manhattan (and other mosques around the country). The First Amendment reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free 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.
The Constitution reads pretty clearly here -- Americans have a freedom to exercise their faiths. This includes popular and unpopular ones. Unless they are clearly breaking laws or impinging on zoning restrictions, people have the freedom to gather wherever they like. Thus, the sponsors of the Manhattan mosque and community center have the right to build two blocks from "Ground Zero." It may not be politically popular -- and apparently the Republican Party is ready to make this a "campaign issue" for the fall -- but its a Constitutional protection. I continually hear Tea Party folks and others talking about the Constitution -- usually their right to bear arms -- but when the Constitution doesn't go their way, well then -- "the Constitution be damned!" My hope is that the American people have a broader and more open vision of the world than to decide who should govern them on the basis of the President's remarks about the mosque in New York.
So, here's my question -- not so much as a Christian (my faith calls for justice for all people and therefore my view is colored by that theology, but I think this time the question emerges from my being a citizen of this nation) as an America citizen: Do we really want to undermine constitutional protections of religion and citizenship?