In response to a series of marches across the country in opposition to Islamic religious dictates known as "sharia," Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennet said "The marches in Denver and other cities across the country today further add to the fear that many have been feeling in recent months. America was built on the idea that people of different faiths can come together to create a strong, united democracy."
What Bennet says about American ideals is true. But what he meant in saying it is not. The marches against sharia were not based in fear of or rejection of peaceable Islamic religious beliefs. They were a profound public rejection of those violent Islamic cultural practices that are antithetical to American values and law.
The Colorado Statesman reported in April that Colorado Muslim Society and the Interfaith Alliance spokeswoman Iman Jodeh testified before the state Senate Judiciary Committee saying "The sharia law is not one that should be feared. As a matter of fact, it should be admired. Sharia was created at a time when there was no law for Muslims. It was created to defend the rights of Christians and Jews living in predominantly Muslim areas..."
We are asked to believe this in the face of abundant worldwide evidence to the contrary. The hundreds of thousands of deaths attributable to self-professed sharia practices in Muslim-dominated countries disposes of that argument. Jodeh fails to understand that Americans utterly reject the notion Islamic law has any place here whatsoever. Religious practice, as carefully distinguished from religious belief, must always be subordinate to our laws and customs, not vice-versa.
Religious intolerance and persecution has a long and sordid history all over the world. It still exists today in many religions and nations. America is one of the few places where tolerance of religious belief is constitutionally protected but tolerance of religious practices offensive to public order and safety are not.
It has been understood from the beginning that religious practice is subject to laws that provide peace and order in our society. In 1878, ruling on polygamy, the Supreme Court held that "Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order." To do otherwise the Court held "would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and, in effect, to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself."
Religion informs our morals, politics and society, always has and hopefully always will. The consequences of a society devoid of connection to a common belief in a higher power are usually catastrophic. Those who are in power always define right and wrong. The result is unfettered evil of Stalinist and Maoist proportions where tens of millions die because they resist the secular orthodoxy of moral relativism.
But informing our legislation with our collective religious beliefs is distinct from overtly embedding this or that religious dogma in our laws. Our nation is made stronger not weaker by our religious diversity and the tolerance each of us is required to display towards the peaceable exercise of religious freedom by others.
But those who would overtly embed religious doctrines into our laws or seek to overlay our society with obligatory religious practices suborn the purpose and intent of the First Amendment. Those who would create internal religious enclaves where the rule of American law is suppressed and individuals are forced or intimidated into religious obedience cannot be tolerated. The Constitution cannot protect those who will not subordinate the practices of their beliefs to the laws, ideals and moral fabric of our nation.
The free exercise of religion protected by the Constitution means only that it is an individual freedom to believe and an individual right to live peaceably in accordance with those beliefs within the civil law that protects everyone. Those who accept this mandate are welcome here.
We are under no obligation to tolerate, much less welcome religious bigotry or offensive practices cloaked in the mantle of religious freedom. No person espousing or supporting the domination of religious practice over our civil laws and customs, as sharia law does, is eligible for the gift of citizenship.
Readers can contact Scott Weiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.