Thursday, May 2, 2013

Facebook Post Puts Tennessee Lawmaker in Hot Water

Photo from USA Today
An article I read in USA Today yesterday chilled me to the bone.

It was about a Tennessee elected official that posted a picture on his Facebook of a man with one eye closed aiming a double-barreled shotgun at the camera. The camera is positioned so that you are looking right up the barrel of the gun at the cowboy-hatted man. The caption for the picture was, “How to wink at a Muslim.” And we have the nerve to wonder why they hate us?

Much of the area that became the United States was settled by Europeans fleeing Europe looking for religious freedom. We honor religious freedom so much that in the Constitution we made it part of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

I’m not going to bash Christianity. I consider myself a Christian…although some like ESPN NBA analyst Chris Broussard might think otherwise. Look it up. 

 I believe in God and country like many of the far right claim to. The problem is that if you truly do love God and country, you don’t post things like this on Facebook pages.

That’s because the Bill of Rights simply isn’t something to play around with or wrap ourselves in when it’s convenient. The Bill of Rights stands for everyone. Whether or not many on the far right will admit that is another thing entirely.

What I do know is that aiming a shotgun at a Muslim who hasn’t harmed you or did anything to you would seem to be against the law and completely wrong. Muslims are free to practice their religion in the United States just like Catholics or Baptists or Presbyterians or Lutherans or Methodists or any other religions are. You are free to not practice a religion if you wish. It’s a fundamental part of our nation.

The thing is that in the same First Amendment where freedom of religion is guaranteed, the freedom of speech is also guaranteed. When Commissioner Barry West of Coffee County decided to post that picture, he had every right to do so as well.

I guess what I’m advocating here is that the First Amendment sets out the rights of the press, religion, peaceable assembly, and speech, it does not give an absolute power or guidance of how to use it. That’s up to us.

If we’re ever going to bridge the gap between Muslims and us, then we must think about the other side as our brothers and sisters. They may have a different path to religious truth than some of us do, but that’s ok. It’s why diversity is a good thing. Maybe then we can bridge the big gulf that divides us today.

Because of his stature as an elected official, Commissioner West should apologize immediately.

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