Ground Zero Church

Via the Drudge Retort, here is some history worth remembering from Paul Moses in Commonweal — a Catholic magazine.

It seems that in 1879 the Knights of Columbus proposed to build a church on an affluent street in Protestant New Haven, Connecticut. Shades of the ‘ground zero mosque’! Moses quotes from the New York Times archives…

As The Times put it, “When the residents of this aristocratic avenue discovered that they were in danger of seeing a Roman Catholic church spring up among them, with all that the establishment of such a church implied, they bestirred themselves to oppose the project. The wisest of the Roman Catholics here did not favor it, and St. Mary’s was induced to exchange the lot for a good one in some other locality.” But that site was also deemed “too good” for Catholics, so a lesser lot was found. The pastor refused this, according to The Times, and built the church as originally planned on wealthy Hillhouse Avenue.

Follow the link to see how it turned out.

America from the beginning has been a refuge for people who were willing to sacrifice all for the right to practice their religion in freedom and dignity. Let’s celebrate that.

American Friends

The American Friends Service Committee, the social justice organization of the Quakers, has issued a statement in support of the proposed Islamic cultural center in New York City. They recognize the profound hurt to individuals and our nation from the attack on the World Trade Center nine years ago this month…

We were here in New York City on September 11th, 2001, and mourned with the loved ones of individuals of all faiths who were killed or injured, reaching out to that of God in each and every one. We experienced the loss of a sense of security and well-being. We, too, experience the pain and grief that remain. We have worked steadfastly with victims in the aftermath, and have challenged actions that lead to further loss of life. We concern ourselves with the threat of harm when those on different sides of disputes cast “the other” in the role of the despised and deny their voice, their humanity, and their rights. We call now, as we did then, for the end to the cycle of violence.

They offer a vision for healing the conflict here and around the world.

Of the possibility of an Islamic Community Center near the site of the World Trade Towers, or a different place of the Center’s Board’s choosing, we harbor no suspicion. We dare to imagine the site of the World Trade Towers surrounded by the evidence of our nation’s commitment to religious freedom, and our nation’s pluralism.

The whole of the statement is here.

Quakers came to the New World before it was America, and have given their lives for the freedom of religion we cherish–here and around the world. There is no better refutation of Muslim extremism than the right of Americans to practice their religion in freedom and dignity. American Muslims are an example to the world of the benefits of a civil society. The Quaker voice is one of quiet decency. It may not be easy to hear over the marching bands and hymnalizing of the self-appointed defenders of ‘faith’. But you don’t get more American than the Society of Friends– a religious minority protecting the rights of us all.

Starhawk in the Washington Post

This was posted by Kladner on Buzzflash— Starhawk, a writer, activist and prominent voice in Pagan spirituality comments on the political hysteria around plans to build an Islamic community center a few blocks away from the World Trade Center Site.

Paganism has been growing in the US since the 1970’s and Pagans have experienced misunderstanding and persecution by some of the same people who are making news by burning copies of the Koran– an act that only disgraces themselves.

Pagans know that when politics and public discourse descend to a hate-fest of blame and condemnation, we could be next. And as someone born Jewish just six years after the defeat of the Nazis, when you start burning books and demonizing religions, I start asking, “When will you be coming for me?”

Read the rest here, it’s brief and to the point.

I’m so glad to see Starhawk in the Washington Post. She opened my eyes to my own spirituality with her book, ‘Dreaming the Dark.’ She has a long career as an activist for human rights and environmental justice. I only wish that some of the religous and political leaders in the Christian faith would speak out as clearly for religious freedom and mutual respect. One Catholic bishop, one Evangelical minister, one Rabbi, one brave politician could do a great deal to bring us back to the angels of our better nature.

Persecuting Christians

Via Democratic Underground a judge has found a town zoning board guilty of discrimination against a Pentecostal church.

The church wants to buy some land and build a bigger church. The town is not happy with a tax-exempt entity expanding its footprint. They say they have enough churches.

With all the talk about finding reasons to deny a Muslim congregation the right to build a community center– one that was approved by the zoning board months ago, it’s important to remember that what goes around comes around.

Our Founders instituted freedom of religion. They didn’t promise it would be comfortable. Gotta go now, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are ringing my doorbell.

Link to the church zoning case here.