Last weekend, the Dutch Islamphobic politician Geert Wilders spoke to a conservative conference hosted by a Christian university in Colorado. The anti-Muslim firebrand served up his usual fare: Islam is not a religion but a “totalitarian ideology,” multiculturalism must be stopped, U.S. courts must end immigration from Muslim countries and mosque construction must be banned.
Former Republican State Senate president John Andrews, who heads up an institute at the university that held the event, told the crowd, “After you hear from Frank Gaffney and our friend from across the Atlantic, Geert Wilders, you’ll know why I just say ‘the threat of Islam’” — as opposed to “radical Islam” or “extremism.”
Current Republican State Senator Kevin Grantham took on Wilders’s message that the West “should forbid the construction of new mosques.” Asked about the proposed ban, Grantham told the Statesman he was for considering it:
You know, we’d have to hear more on that, because, as he said, mosques are not churches like we would think of churches. They think of mosques more as a foothold into a society, as a foothold into a community, more in the cultural and in the nationalistic sense. Our churches — we don’t feel that way, they’re places of worship, and mosques are simply not that, and we need to take that into account when approving construction of those.
The notion that Mosques are not “places of worship” is an absurd extension of Wilders’s bigotry. Even Grantham’s fellow Republican State Senate colleague Kevin Lundberg ignored this contention and saw the fatal flaw in this logic: banning mosque construction violates the basic rights of free exercise of religion codified in the Bill of Rights. Lundberg told the Statesman:
I think immediately of ‘Congress shall make no law …’ and that sounds pretty close to that, doesn’t it?
We’re a free society, and there are risks with freedom. In my mind, we need to give every citizen the opportunity to succeed or fail on their merits, and there are limits we have to put in place for certain public safety issues, but I am much more a stronger defender of the First Amendment than I am of immediately restricting people because of a perceived concern.
Lundberg is right. The First Amendment plainly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The rest is just bigotry and antithetical to those values.