In the growing category of religious-right hypocrisy, read this recent statement from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land regarding the proposed Muslim community center near Ground Zero in New York:
“I take a back seat to no one when it comes to religious freedom and religious belief and the right to express that belief, even beliefs that I find abhorrent. But what I don’t do is I don’t say that religious freedom means that you have the right to build a place of worship anywhere that you want to build them.”
Land, head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, made that statement (reported Bob Allen of Associated Baptist Press) on his August 14 radio program. But in 1998 Land testified in favor of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), a 2000 law that put strong limits on government’s ability to restrict what religious congregations can do with their property. Congress passed the RLUIPA in response to a Texas-based U.S. Supreme Court case, City of Boerne v. Flores. In that 1997 decision the Supreme Court upheld the right of local officials in Boerne, west of San Antonio, to refuse to allow the expansion of a Catholic church in a neighborhood set aside for historical preservation.
“I believe that the Boerne decision is one of the worst decisions rendered by the Supreme Court in its long history. . . . You cannot treat a church or a mosque or a synagogue the same way you treat a bowling alley or a used-car dealership. This Supreme Court said, ‘Yes you can.’ That is outrageous and dangerous.”
Now, apparently, Land believes government should treat a religious institution essentially like any other entity. Moreover, he thinks government should discriminate against all Muslims simply because of the actions of a small minority of extremists. Here’s Land, again from the Associated Baptist Press article:
“I am well aware of the fact that the vast majority of Muslims do not support the suicide attackers, the terrorists, who attacked the buildings at 9/11. But it is a fact … that every single one of the people who participated in that terrorist attack were doing so in the name of their understanding of Islam.”
We have to believe that Land would stand with the Texas Freedom Network in opposing a government decision barring a Christian church from building near a health clinic simply because many of the bombings of abortion clinics and the murder of abortion providers have come at the hands of extremists who committed their crimes in the name of their understanding of Christianity. Such anti-Christian discrimination would be — and should be — repugnant, especially to anyone who supports the principle of religious freedom. Land, however, seems to think that religious freedom is good for some people of faith, but not for all — at least, not for those whose religious beliefs he doesn’t like.