The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Flames of the Torch: Applying the Constitution

Over the summer, the debate over the construction of an Islamic community center a few blocks away from Ground Zero dominated the news and minds of the whole nation. The inclusion of a mosque within the center inflamed arguments between citizens and politicians, reaching as far as the White House.

Here at the Torch, we feel that this debate opens up an important conversation on the topic of religious tolerance and how the Constitution is sometimes overlooked in day-to-day matters. It is not so much an issue of right or wrong, then, as it is an issue of legal or illegal.

Though it may not be as easy as it sounds, a simple application of Constitutional law is the idyllic solution to this dispute.

According to the First Amendment, there is a clearly drawn line of separation between the church-any church-and the state. This grants absolute religious freedom to all, regardless of beliefs and with no exceptions.

The situation at Ground Zero is no different. Although some people’s emotions may cloud their judgment and cause them to forget about certain fundamentals principles of the Constitution, there is still a legal
answer to the debate at hand.

The Constitution defends the right of the Park51 project and backs the Muslim community’s right to worship when, where and how they see fit, so long as those practices do not infringe upon the rights of others.

The main argument of those against the center is the lack of sensitivity of the project’s developers in terms of the location they have selected. Many feel that it is disrespectful to the memory of those who died as a result of the events of 9/11.

They have asked the government to step in
and legally block the construction, a clear violation of the First Amendment and the separation of church and state. However, those behind the project maintain that the
center will help to the wounds as a place of learning and conversation.

The Torch believes that to truly honor those who have died, we need to honor those rights and values that are explicitly American, including, and especially, freedom of religion. To practice intolerance is to mimic the actions of those behind the attacks on the World Trade Center.

While it is important to never
forget what happened nine years ago this weekend, it is even more important that we never forget what this country is founded on.

The rights put into place by the Constitution are there to protect the lives and interests of all Americans, no matter what their background, beliefs or circumstances. It is interesting to see people invoking another aspect of the First Amendment, the freedom to protest, to block a group’s right to freedom of religion.

While these people protest the Constitutional rights of other Americans, they simultaneously exercise their own Constitutional rights. This paradox, though rarely noted, is a perfect demonstration of what makes America, America.

We believe that both parties are justifiable in their actions and opinions because of their Constitutional rights. However, we also believe that decency and sensitivity should be enacted when dealing with matters of such emotional and cultural significance. By following and adhering to Constitutional law, we pay homage to those whose lives have been lost and the sacrifices that have been made.

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