Religious freedom? Fuhgeddaboudit!


At a press conference today at New York's JFK International Airport, the Rev. Franklin Graham spoke to reporters prior to his departure on a U.S. government-funded tour of Europe. The son of famed evangelist Billy Graham has been commissioned by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to meet with European evangelical leaders to explain why U.S. foreign policy is not hostile to Christians.

Far-fetched? Of course. Equally far-fetched would be a State Department-sponsored tour of Africa and Asia by Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput, during which the Denver prelate would seek to assure Third World Catholics that, despite the Obama administration's support for abortion worldwide, the foreign policy of this country is not directed against indigenous peoples.

Nor would you expect to see Secretary Clinton's State Department pay for Rabbi Daniel Lapin to go to Israel to assure worried Israelis there that U.S. policy toward the Jewish state is actually friendly---despite President Obama's pressure on Israelis to yield more and more territory on the West Bank to the PLO.

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As much as we can---and should---celebrate ecumenism and religious pluralism in America, no one could imagine our State Department paying to send leading religious figures abroad---at taxpayer expense---to advance the policies of this administration.

Yet that is exactly what is happening with Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf, the man who is spearheading the mosque at Ground Zero in New York. He is being given the opportunity to tour the Middle East and Muslim majority countries in Asia---at our expense---supposedly to promote U.S. foreign policy.

Secretary Clinton has been unusually silent on the subject of the Ground Zero mosque. She's been quiet, as well, about the imam's paid tour on behalf of the State Department. Yet she must have signed off on this high-profile junket. It's happening on her watch.

We need a lot of answers. What, exactly, is Imam Rauf doing in these Muslim-majority states? He says he's all for "moderation." Will he be interceding in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia on behalf of Christians who are being murdered every day in these countries?

Last month, 10 aid workers were murdered execution-style by Islamists in Afghanistan. Six of the workers were Americans. Their offense? They were trying to bring modern medical healing to villagers whose standard of care is still back in the Middle Ages.

Will Imam Rauf cry out for these martyrs whose blood cries out to us? If he is not a voice for moderation where moderation is most desperately needed, what is he doing there?

It is very instructive that our cultural elites have no problem with the imam's tax-funded trip. These are the same people who throw a fit any time a high school student in the United States is in the same room where a Christian prayer is offered. Can we really be sending Muslim clerics around the world and call it "outreach?"

Instead, why didn't President Obama send him up in the space shuttle? Wasn't outreach to Muslims supposed to have been NASA's Job One? It certainly would have been cheaper to put an imam in orbit than to keep him traveling in style. And we could certainly monitor his speeches and conversations better if Imam Rauf were in the space shuttle. From every indication, this is one fellow who bears a lot of watching.

Hard hats and contractors in New York are joining the growing grassroots movement to resist this unconstitutional "establishment of religion" that is proceeding under the cover of multiculturalism, "outreach," and interfaith understanding. These New Yorkers are signing pledges to refuse to work on Imam Rauf's mosque at Ground Zero.

America's religious freedom is the wonder of the world. Just this week it was announced that Dinesh D'Souza, a devout Catholic, had been named president of The King's College in Manhattan. The King's College is the only evangelical college in New York City.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Blackwell may have relied here on an erroneous press report. D'Souza defines himself as an "evangelical born-again Christian" who grew up Catholic but is a member of an evangelical church and has signed an evangelical statement of faith in accepting his new role as president of The King's College.)

This is the kind of understanding, outreach, and religious dialogue we should applaud. It's not the kind that will likely gain the support of The New York Times, but it nonetheless represents genuine ecumenism.

We have much to tell the world about how we have lived together peacefully in America. All here are free to worship and to pray as their conscience dictates. But we must recognize that if this mosque goes up at Ground Zero, it will be a defeat for religious freedom. It will represent a victory for fear and intimidation over open dialogue and freedom of conscience. If we permit this center of sedition to go up, the word on religious freedom will be: fuhgeddaboudit!

Ken Blackwell
Ken Blackwell

Ken, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, is the co-author of The Blueprint: Obama's Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency. Follow Ken on Twitter @kenblackwell.


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