Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | August 14, 2007

Perish the thought of hypocrisy, fraud and tyranny

“Hypocrisy – Insincerity by virtue of pretending to have qualities or beliefs that you do not really have” ~ Princeton University’s WordNet

“Stereotype – A too-simple and therefore distorted image of a group” ~ American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy

I’m disheartened by the reasons people continue to use in letters to the editor to oppose plans for a mosque in San Martin. In particular, a letter from Robert and Joanne Parish of Morgan Hill and Tom Campbell of San Jose was full of rank hypocrisy based on stereotyped assumptions about Muslims. (Campbell’s name appeared on this letter in The Times on Aug. 10 but was inadvertently omitted in The Dispatch on Aug. 11.)

The Parishes and Campbell claim to “fully support the U.S. Constitution and every U.S. citizen’s right to free speech and freedom of religion.”

These are nice-sounding but empty words that are completely contradicted by the rest of their letter.

According to the Cornell University Law School, the First Amendment to the Constitution “protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression… Freedom of expression consists of the rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly … and the implied rights of association and belief.”

Cornell says that the Fourteenth Amendment requires that “the laws of a state must treat an individual in the same manner as others in similar conditions and circumstances.”

Those guarantees must apply to all Americans, or our Constitution is a sham. We learned that with slavery, Japanese internment camps and segregation, for example. You’d think we’d have the lesson down pat.

Sadly, the Parish/Campbell letter shows that some of us don’t.

Citing the terrorist acts of Sept. 11, 2001, the Parishes and Campbell demand that Santa Clara County officials conduct background checks on the proposed mosque’s religious leaders, members and finances, based on the behavior of a few Muslim extremists to ensure that they aren’t establishing a “beachhead” of some sort. In making that demand, they make a mockery of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Have the Parishes and Campbell demanded similar checks for projects proposed by members of other faiths?

When a Catholic high school was proposed for Morgan Hill, for example, I didn’t hear any opposition based on pedophilia among priests, or terrorist violence by Catholics in Northern Ireland, or American terrorists Eric Rudolph, the serial bomber whose crimes included the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics, and Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, both Catholics.

Using the Parish/Campbell logic, pedophilia and terrorist violence by a few Catholics ought to spur officials to worry that a pedophilia or terrorist “beachhead” is being established in South County, and to require background checks of every leader, employee, donor and volunteer at South County’s Catholic hospital, schools, churches and charities.

Perish the thought – it’s an outrageous and patently unfair and unconstitutional idea. But applying the Parish/Campbell demands about this Muslim-backed project to other groups reveals their hypocrisy based on stereotypes.

The Parishes and Campbell worry that “The plans for San Martin are not to build just a place of worship, but a larger Islamic ‘community.’”

This is true of most places of worship and religious institutions. South County has a Catholic hospital and many church-affiliated schools and charities. Most churches have fellowship or parish halls that foster a sense of community for their members.

If, as they claim, the Parishes and Campbell fully support the Constitution, which enshrines every American’s rights to freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and equal protection under the law, they’d support it in deed, not just in word, for all Americans – Muslims included.

But because the Parishes and Campbell wrote a letter that claims to support the Constitution but then advocates actions for the mosque proposal that gravely undermine these key constitutional provisions, their hypocrisy based on stereotypes shows, and it isn’t pretty.

The religious beliefs of the mosque’s backers and the actions of Muslim extremists have no relevance to whether it is approved by Santa Clara County officials, if our Constitution has any value.

If the Parishes, Campbell and others of their ilk prevail in using religion as a basis for stopping the mosque project, their hypocrisy based on stereotypes would make a fraud of our Constitution and move us toward tyranny.

I hope that in our South County corner of America, we’ll fight fear and hypocrisy with equality and justice for all – and ‘all’ includes our Muslim neighbors who want to build a mosque.

“There are three things in the world that deserve no mercy: hypocrisy, fraud and tyranny.” ~ English clergyman Frederick William Robertson

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