No Right to Build a Mosque

| Thu Aug. 19, 2010 11:45 AM EDT

OK, fine. There's nothing much going on today, so let's talk about the Park51 mosque project. We already know that a large majority of Americans are opposed to building it, but here are the results of an Economist poll on a slightly different question:

Whether or not you think the Islamic cultural centre and mosque should be built near the World Trade Center site, do you think that Muslims have a constitutional right to build a mosque there?

Technically, I think the wording of this question should have been turned around: not whether Muslims have the right to build a mosque on Park Place, but whether the government has the constitutional right to stop them from building a mosque on Park Place.

Still, I think everyone probably understands what this means, and it's just depressing as hell. It's one thing to oppose the mosque just because you don't like the idea, but to deny that Muslims even have a constitutional right to build it? That should be a no-brainer. Of course they do. You can picket the site, you can boycott their sponsors, you can vote against politicians who speak in favor of it, and you can scream all you like on blogs and Fox News. But how can anyone not accept, at a bare minimum, that the constitution protects their basic right to build a house of worship the same way it protects their opponents' right to protest it?

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