Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Does Obama’s Religion Matter?

A recent Pew Research poll found that 18% of Americans believe Barack Obama is a Muslim, 34% believe he is a Christian and 43% simply don’t know what the President’s religion is.

The poll’s focus – and that of its media examiners – has been the increase in the number of Americans that now view Obama as a Muslim. Pew also compared the president’s job approval numbers with respect to the religion question: unsurprisingly, respondents with a favorable view of Obama’s job performance are more likely to believe he is a Christian, while those that disapprove are more likely to believe he is a Muslim.

But the questions Pew declined to ask were “Does President Obama’s religion matter to you?” and , “Why are so many people unsure of what religion the president practices”? Back in the 1960’s there was much controversy over the fact that John F. Kennedy was a Catholic. People were concerned that Kennedy would have a conflict of interest between his faith and his obligations to all Americans. There were those that thought Kennedy would have to consult with the Pope over decisions that might conflict with Roman Catholic doctrine. Ultimately, Kennedy was elected as this nation’s first Catholic president and few would argue that his religion – while it must have played a role in his decision making process – did not cause any upheaval in America.

We have had presidents from 11 different religious dominations and 2 with no church affiliation (though they believed in God). What religion each president practiced had little to do with how they governed, what political party they represented, or how the American people as a whole viewed them or their performance in office.

So why do so many Americans today seem confused s to Barack Obama’s religion? Some point to the fact that Obama’s father (who he barely knew) was a Muslim, who later became an atheist. Others point to the fact that Obama attended an Islamic school while he lived in Indonesia (something that being a child he did not choose) as evidence that he is a Muslim. Still others see his constant apologies and “outreach” to the Muslim world as reasons to believe he is a follower of the Quran.

But what about the fact that the president attended Reverend Wright’s church in Chicago for 20 years of his adult life? Steeped in Black Liberation Theology, that church is where President Obama claims he found Jesus Christ. Unlike his childhood experience in the Muslim school, spending years in Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s church was the deliberate choice of a grown adult, as is his friendship with Father Phleger- a Catholic priest who also is a believer in Liberation Theology.. Much of the rhetoric Obama uses in his speeches – which many have labeled as socialist or Marxist -- can be traced to Black Liberation Theology. More significantly for our nation, the same is also true for several of the policies he has put forth since taking office.

So does it even matter what religion Barack Obama does or does not practice? Do the American people even have the right to know what the religious beliefs of their elected representatives – even the president – are? Is there anything more personal and private than a person’s faith? We elect a president to represent all of the people, no matter their faith- or lack of faith- in a deity or higher power.

The First Amendment says in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” As long as President Obama does not violate the First Amendment for instance, by attempting to make Sharia Law a part of our system, or establish any religion as an official government sanctioned faith, is his religion pertinent? If his beliefs become a part of his public policy decisions does that give the American people the right to demand answers about the president’s faith?

This article is not intended to draw any conclusions as to the relevance of President Obama’s religious beliefs, whether they are pertinent, or the right of the American people to know what they are. Rather, the intent is to step back from the issue and let people examine their points of view on the matter from a broader perspective. Each of us must consider three very important questions. First: Is the president’s religious affiliation any of our business? Second: Are the president’s personal religious beliefs any of our business, or are they simply a distraction from much more critical issues? Third: Are Barack Obama’s religious beliefs becoming part of his administration’s public policy?

Steven Rosenblum is the Republican nominee for Florida State House, District 89

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cordoba Intolerant

Last week the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously against granting landmark status to the former Burlington Coat Factory Building which will now be demolished, clearing the way for the construction of an Islamic "community center". This location, which is in the shadow of the site of the 9/11 attacks, is where an engine from one of the planes that struck the World Trade Center was found.

This mosque, which is the brainchild of the Cordoba Initiative and controversial Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an affront to the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families. While the imam claims that the project, "aims to achieve a tipping point in Muslim-West relations within the next decade, steering the world back to the course of mutual recognition and respect and away from heightened tensions", nothing could be farther from the truth. Its actual effect has been, and will continue to be, to cause an even larger rift and to foment even more anger and distrust of Islam in the United States.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has said that he wants the U.S. to be “more Sharia compliant”, that American foreign policy was to blame for the 9/11 attacks and that Hamas is not a terrorist organization. Those radical statements and the questionable funding sources for the mosque, along with its proximity to Ground Zero, have led to a tremendous outcry against the project.

We constantly hear that Americans need do be sensitive and tolerant of Islam, yet it seems that Muslims never have to be sensitive or tolerant of the feelings of Americans. It would seem that especially in this instance, if there were a sincere desire to bridge the divide between so-called "moderate" Islam and the West that the Cordoba Initiative would recognize the pain and anger that this project is causing and agree to move it to another location voluntarily.

In the Muslim faith building a mosque at the site of a military victory is a way of claiming that spot for Islam, the mosque becomes a marker to that victory. The original Mosque of Cordoba was built atop the ashes of a Christian church that a Muslim army had destroyed in the city of Andalusia around 711 A.D, as a way of marking the victory. So using the name Cordoba is not a coincidence and only makes this project’s intent even more questionable and its construction that much more objectionable.

The construction of this mosque, using this name, at this location would be akin to the Israelis attacking Mecca, destroying the Masjid al-Haram (the largest mosque in the world) and then building a synagogue in its place. The Islamic world would never tolerate such an act.

And while we’re discussing what the Islamic world would never tolerate, these “tolerant”, “sensitive” people would never allow a Christian church or a Jewish synagogue to be built anywhere in their countries, much less on or near hallowed ground. Make no mistake, Ground Zero is hallowed ground and should be treated as such. The only memorials or markers that should be built in or around the site of the World Trade Center should be to those that were murdered there, including the brave men and women of the New York City Police Department, the New York City Fire Department and the Port Authority Police of New York and New Jersey.

As someone that lost a family member in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, I must say that I am appalled at the insensitivity of, not only the people behind the Cordoba Initiative, but of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and all the other New York politicians that are supportive of building this mosque so close to Ground Zero.

This is, once again, political correctness run amok. There may be no legal reason to block this project. But there are certainly moral and common sense reasons to prevent it from being built.

It should be noted that the New York City Landmarks Commission’s decision was not on whether or not the Cordoba Initiative’s project should move forward. It was simply a vote on whether or not the current building should be designated a landmark. This writer disagrees with the commission’s decision and believes that the fact that an engine from one of the planes that struck the World Trade Center came to rest there is reason enough to designate the building a historical landmark.