Amy Holmes Wants a Cookie


Hitting the trifecta today, let’s take a look at Amy Holmes’ post comparing the Westboro Baptist Church to Park 51. Let’s start with Holmes first shot to her own foot:

In the midst of the Ground Zero mosque controversy, a related story on religious expression has been overlooked. This week, a federal judge ruled that the Westboro Baptist Church has a First Amendment right to picket military funerals with harassing, homophobic chants and signs:

Chief U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan said the state statute violated free speech protections guaranteed in the First Amendment by imposing excessive restrictions on the ability to conduct protests outside funerals. The judge, who is based in Kansas City, Mo., also ruled that the controversial protests did not amount to “fighting words,” which are unprotected by the Constitution and can be banned.

“Although plaintiff’s speech may be repugnant to listeners, the court finds that, at a minimum, some of plaintiff’s speech is entitled to constitutional protection,” Judge Gaitan said in a 19-page decision announced Monday.

Let’s be clear about this before getting into why the scenarios are not analogous: Holmes admits the Westboro Baptist Church is allowed to protest soldiers’ funerals. That should end things right there. Certainly Holmes and other conservatives are allowed to register discontent at the Park 51 project, but according to the zoning laws of downtown New York and the Constitution of United States, the Park 51 project has every right to be constructed in an old Burlington Coat Factory.

Some questions: Should we, as Kathleen Parker suggests, support the Westboro Baptist Church’s ugly, anti-gay protests precisely because we don’t like the idea very much?

We don’t have to support the protests, or even the right to protest. We should however, acknowledge that the First Amendment guarantees most freedom of speech and religion.

Should we, as President Obama intoned last Friday, reach deep into our national character and declare our full-throated support for the right of this religious group to set up camp at a hallowed place without passing judgment on the wisdom of the church’s activities?

I don’t need to point out that downtown Manhattan is hardly “hallowed” as there are strip clubs, bars, adult stores all around the area. This point has already been made, and yet ignored. I shouldn’t need to point out that a soldier’s funeral is a deeply personal, one-time ceremony that actually is hallowed. Further, I’m failing to see how a group of protesters that mocks dead heroes at close distances to their actual graves is the same thing as a center that, among other things, works to make sure there won’t be another 9/11, nearby the site of the first.

Will we hear from left-wing commentators that, out of an abundance of tolerance, we must stand in solidarity with the Westboro Baptist Church (whose position on homosexuality is actually not all that different from fundamentalist Islam’s) in defense of religious freedom?

This one is truly hilarious. Holmes explicit says that fundamentalist Christians are just as bad as fundamentalist Muslims when it comes to homosexuality. To this comparison, I’d ask Holmes if we should fear terror attacks from the WBC. Could the WBC and those of their ilk should take over a major political party and subject us to a theocracy? Should we worry about fundamentalist Christians changing our society by say, oh, lying about the religious origins of our founding fathers?

In all seriousness, Holmes’ point is completely moot because Park51 is not a center for fundamentalist Islam. In fact, Park51 is borderline Unitarian Universalist; via Jeff Goldberg, dig the project’s founder, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, at a memorial for Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and killed by that obscure terrorist group Al-Qaeda:

We are here to assert the Islamic conviction of the moral equivalency of our Abrahamic
faiths. If to be a Jew means to say with all one’s heart, mind and soul Shma` Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ahad; hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One, not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one, Mr. Pearl.

If to be a Christian is to love the Lord our God with all of my heart, mind and soul, and to
love for my fellow human being what I love for myself, then not only am I a Christian, but I
have always been one Mr. Pearl.

And I am here to inform you, with the full authority of the Quranic texts and the practice of
the Prophet Muhammad, that to say La ilaha illallah Muhammadun rasulullah is no different.

It expresses the same theological and ethical principles and values

Of course as an atheist, I think you’re all full of shit 🙂 More Holmes:

I suspect that those who are now excoriating the 68 percent of Americans who are uneasy with a $100 million mosque being built two blocks from Ground Zero would discover the distinction between what is a right, and what is right.

Again, take the poll and ask the same question about strip clubs; hell, ask the same question about some of the investment banks and hedge funds located around the are. Further, the mosque is just one part of the center; arguing that the mosque itself would cost that amount is misleading.

I suspect the Westboro Church’s “free speech” would be roundly condemned as, at the very least, insensitive.

If those at Park 51 start a loud chant of “death to America” and repeatedly show footage of the planes hitting the towers, that’d probably be insensitive. It’s also the equivalent of what the WBC does. But that is clearly not the stated goal of Park 51.


The one unintended insight Holmes gives us with this piece is simple: she, and most conservatives, believe that even the most liberal, tolerant Muslims in the world, hate America. Even if they live happily here, even if they want to aid the community, whatever. They also apparently have the powers of mind control and this “$100 million dollar mosque” will only make things worse.

I did, however, enjoy Bill Maher’s pithy comment on this pathetic saga earlier in the week

Maybe if America had BUILT SOMETHING in the last 9 yrs at Ground Zero people wldn’t be so touchy about the mosque going up there.

I haven’t followed the project closely enough, but I think the bottom line is that he’s right. Perhaps it is just jealousy that a Muslim man is getting more done in the area than us in what should be the most important public works project of our generation.


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