Here is an excerpt from a great article by Willamette Law Professor Steven K. Green published on OregonLive.com on September 10, 2010.
Liberty and tolerance: Our checkered history with religious equality
Published: Friday, September 10, 2010, 9:00 AM
By Steven K. Green
This seems like a good time for a refresher on an important American value: religious equality. Ramadan is ending, the Jewish holy days are upon us, and many Americans are apparently uncomfortable about the nation’s growing religious pluralism. Only a hermit would be unaware of recent religious tensions involving America’s Islamic community: the controversy over the proposed Muslim community center in New York; the slashing of a New York Muslim cabdriver after he identified his religious faith; the threatened burning of the Quran by a Florida church; and opposition to mosque construction in Tennessee, California and elsewhere.
What does this history instruct about recent events? How do we transition from merely tolerating our nation’s 6 million Muslim citizens to affording them the benefits of religious equality? It will require a change in attitudes among the non-Muslim majority, which will remain elusive so long as Americans equate Islam with terrorism. Media coverage of violence by Muslim terrorists creates lasting impressions, but to condemn nearly 1 billion Muslims for the actions of several thousand is like condemning the Catholic Church for past actions by the Irish Republican Army. Demagogues who kill in the name of God are not unique to any faith.
We must renew our commitment to the value of religious equality, not simply toleration. We must demonstrate to Islamic extremists that we can distinguish between faith and violent acts, that our commitment to religious equality is more than platitudes chiseled into the Jefferson Memorial. Our checkered history with this issue has taught us that we cannot afford to slip backward.
Read the full article at http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2010/09/liberty_and_tolerance_our_chec.html