by Chris Bodenner
A reader writes:
Kaminer is wrong: There is a difference between "a right denied formally by the government" and "informally by a virtual mob." In fact, there is no such thing as a virtual mob taking away the rights of other people, unless those people choose not to defend themselves. Anyone attempting to shame the Cordoba Mosque owners into abandoning their project in New York are doing the only thing they can do, short of suing, which is to exercise their right to speak out publicly in opposition. While the builders of the Mosque have to endure this public shaming, they still have the courts to protect their legal and constitutional rights. Again, what Kaminer is talking about is what happens if the builders of the Cordoba Mosque choose not to defend themselves in court, or if you like, when they choose not to endure the public shaming. As unfortunate as it is, though, this is our democracy.
The neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois who Kaminer discusses were willing to endure public shaming and go to court to defend their right to march. I am not equating the two, of course. My point is that the neo-Nazis won, they marched, and we were left with only one option - exercising our right to march along in protest. I can't imagine Kaminer contending that this public shaming of the neo-Nazis in any way "undermines our commitment to freedom of speech."
Yet Kaminer suggests the ADL's protesting undermines a commitment to freedom of religion (I need to say the use of the word "commitment" is an odd choice and is the reason her argument becomes so confusing. There's a reason we don't rely on oaths or pledges to guarantee our right to freedom of religion or speech. Our commitment is to the Constitution, which guarantees us these rights). While it may be hypocritical for the ADL to protest, while at the same time knowing their argument would not hold up in court, their protest, in and of itself, is not infringing on the rights of the Cordoba Mosque owners. Those rights are protected by the courts.
The bottom-line is the First Amendment gives the owners of the Cordoba Mosque every right to build, the ADL every right to protest, others the right to shame ADL, and so on. Just as Dr. Laura has the right to be a bigot, her listeners the right to boycott, her sponsors the right to drop her, and Palin the right to defend her. It's a pretty ugly scene, to be sure, but as far as I can tell, everyone's Constitutional rights remain intact. If you feel bad for the owners of the Cordoba Mosque having to endure the shaming, well then, get out there and speak up!