Ground zero mosque: hyperbole all around

Just about everybody who cares desperately about the ground zero mosque is guilty of hyperbole and fuzzy logic. That is the only conclusion I can come to about this “tempest in a tea pot” controversy.

First up: my fellow conservatives who see this mosque as “insulting.” Give me a break. But the liberals who are feigning outrage about the conservative reaction are just as bad. Keep on reading and I’ll explain why.

Conservatives, we believe in the rule of law. This means the only thing you should care about regarding this mosque is: does the zoning allow it? You are not a fuzzy-headed liberal. You should know that “feelings” are irrelevant when it comes to the law. If this were an Episcopal Church or a Buddhist temple, you wouldn’t care (as long as the zoning allowed it). So, to say “it hurts peoples’ feelings” is fuzzy-headed liberal logic. Don’t succumb to it.

I don’t care if the imam involved is not really a moderate and I don’t care if he said bad things about the United States. Do we have a First Amendment in this country? Yes. Does it allow free speech and free practice of religion? Yes. These are the only things you as a conservative should care about.

If the imam gathers radicals to him, and they gather at this mosque, it makes it that much easier for the authorities to capture them. Who cares if the Muslim world sees this as another sign of the “U.S. defeat” and chortles about a “victory for Islam?” Are you defined by what the Muslim world says about you, or are you defined by the rule of law and the Constitution? Just because some radical Muslims see this as your defeat does not mean you must take it as your defeat. In fact, this is a great example of American values winning out — the Constitution triumphs again. We allow freedom and we respect the rule of law in the United States.

So, conservatives, shut up about this mosque.

Now, liberals, you really need to shut up about criticizing conservatives on this issue. Yes, I’m talking about comments like this one. Anybody who opposes this mosque, including the ADL (!!??), is a “bigot.” Give me a break.

Liberals, you invented the whole environment where “feelings” are more important than the law. You invented political correctness and campus speech codes. You are willing to set aside the First Amendment so that nobody’s feelings ever get hurt.

The First Amendment is all about allowing unpopular and sometimes even hurtful speech because the alternative — suppressing speech somebody in power doesn’t like — is much worse than allowing people to spout off ridiculous nonsense.

But yet when some people say their feelings are hurt by this mosque — including, by the way, 60 percent of New Yorkers — you say they are all bigots. Well, you can’t have it both ways. Either feelings are important or they are not. Personally, I believe feelings are mostly irrevelant and what matters is the rule of law. But this is specifically what liberals do NOT say in many crucial situations. They care about feelings, alright, just not the feelings they disagree with. This is called hypocrisy.

Speaking of hypocrisy, let’s throw in another bit of liberal hypocrisy regarding temple baptisms by our Church. The Church has agreed not to baptize Jews because it hurts their feelings. But anybody who knows anything about the temple baptism process knows this is a rule that is almost impossible to enforce. When you find somebody’s name who is related to you there is often no way to know his or her religion. You submit the name, the person is baptized, and their record gets updated in the central Church archives. Some of them may be Jewish, some of them may not. So every few years we hear about a Jewish group getting upset because the LDS church will not stop baptizing Jews. And liberal Mormons all cluck their tongues with disapproval — why doesn’t the Church stop doing this?

Well, first of all, it is impossible to know for sure the religion of somebody who died 200 years ago. But second, can we please stop using fuzzy-headed logic about this? If Jews don’t believe the LDS church is true, then who cares if we baptize a person who is dead? Such a measure should be meaningless to your average Jewish person.

In addition, if we as Mormons believe the Church is true, we should believe that there are dead people who are anxious to be baptized. Some of them may have been Jewish while they were alive. We have the freedom to practice our religion, so we should practice it and baptize our relatives. Some may have been Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist while they were alive — but their mortal religion has nothing whatsoever to do with their decision in the spirit world to accept another religion (where they will continue to have free will).

Just to be clear, I am not criticizing the Church leaders’ decision to agree to the demands of Jewish petitioners asking for such baptisms to stop. I am instead taking to task the Mormons who criticize the Church for not following through more completely on such a request.

Again, this request is all about “not hurting peoples’ feelings.” Feelings should be way down the list of things that are important. But liberal Mormons say feelings are extremely important — except when those feelings belong to New Yorkers opposed to the ground zero mosque, in which case they are all bigots. See how easy it is not to be consistent?

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

31 thoughts on “Ground zero mosque: hyperbole all around

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention » Ground zero mosque: hyperbole all around The Millennial Star --

  2. Wow.
    Interesting in how stupid comments by conservatives leads to liberal-bashing.
    As a liberal, I don’t believe that all people that oppose the mosque are bigots. Some of them certainly are, but there are other (mostly if not all invalid) reasons for opposing the mosque.
    Second, as a liberal, I don’t criticize the church for letting a few Holocaust Jew names slip through.
    Third, as a liberal, when it comes to the First Amendment, and particularly religious freedoms, I don’t care whose feelings get hurt. The ACLU, that bastion of liberal thought, agrees, which is why they’ll protect the First Amendment rights of radicals on the opposite side of the political spectrum (ie–neo-Nazis) as well as liberals.

    I’m a bit disappointed that you used an opportunity like this, where you should have been standing up for religious freedoms of a minority religious group (which, I admit, you did to a small degree), you instead decided to spend more than half of the post bashing liberals. Clean your own house first, sir.

  3. If we can accommodate a Stake Center and Temple in a six storey building, why do the Muslims need a 15 storey mosque?

  4. Tim, you are a Good Liberal. You get extra points. Now you can move on to opposing the minimum wage and rent control. Don’t be so serious — just having a little fun.

  5. As I understand it, the building in question is a cultural center with a prayer room inside. That doesn’t sound like a mosque to me. Also, it is not at Ground Zero but at best nearby.

  6. Jeff, just to clarify, the church specifically exempted relatives (at least direct ancestors) of living members when implementing the policy to not proxy-baptize deceased Jews. Jewish ancesters of living LDS can still get proxy-baptized without the church breaking any promises.

  7. Book, I won’t copy the articles, but there are a lot of outraged people out there claiming the Church broke its promise because it is still baptizing any Jews at all. That policy is not well-known.

  8. I’m really surprised no outraged conservatives have shown up to quote Sean Hannity at me. To any offended liberals or conservatives, please re-read the title of this post. “Hyperbole all around” sometimes applies to the writer. Get it?

  9. In the wake of the 1991 Oklahoma City bombing, congress passed a law against advocating or preaching violence, and made the speakers of such speach partially responsible for those who carried out the violence after attending a meeting or rally. It was aimed at all the militias that sprung up after the Waco Branch Davidian affair.

    It seems to me that those laws could be used against radical imams preaching jihad or violence in US mosques. Some of the stuff being preached in US mosques is as bad as the worst stuff overseas.

    (btw, did the Fort Hood shooter follow and US-based imams?)

    I wonder if all those who demonized militias after Waco and OKC and wanted them all arrested will now go after any muslim leaders/imams in the US who preach violence against America or Americans.

  10. BTW, I think it would help if we used the terms proxy-baptism and proxy-baptize to refer to temple baptisms for the dead.

    Of course non-LDS believe that temple ordinances are NON-binding on the dead. They don’t believe the temple stuff is efficacious at all.

    But, I believe that the misunderstanding with non-members is that non-members think that _we_ think we really are making the deceased into Mormons or Christians.

    The second part that offends them is that the church publishes (or makes available online) the information. It’s like “Look at what we did. We made ’em Christian.”

    So a lot of the misunderstanding is in presentation and context.

    Memory and legacy of the deceased is important. If your grandparent was happy or proud to be Jewish, it really is an offense to hear or read of some other group going around saying “Well, he may have been Jewish, but he’s Chrsitian now.”

    Plus, it’s seen as a dig against the religion itself, as if the covenant God made with Abraham is not sufficient. That goes back to the Jewish-Christian feud ever since Christ first declared who He was. Jews back then said “I’m Jewish, and I’m going to heaven based on that, because my father is Abraham. We’re the chosen people.”

    Christ in effect said: “No, you can’t go to Heaven just for the mere fact that Abraham was your father, there’s more to it.” And the Jews replied “No thank-you. We’re doing just fine.”

    And so with the LDS temple proxy ordinances, we are in effect saying pretty much the same to Jews again today, and even to all other Christians: “You need this temple stuff too. What you have now, nice as it is, is insufficient.”

    So just to say that “We’re doing it out of love” or “the dead people still have their agency” doesn’t go anywhere near assuaging the offense taken from our clear implications that their religions are insufficient for salvation.

    This is another case where the church needs to get in front of it in terms of PR, and not let the critics frame the discussion.

  11. So, just curious: if I don’t believe that feelings are more important than the law, if I have never supported a campus speech code and have never criticized the Church regarding its proxy baptism policy, does that mean I have free reign to criticize as a liberal, or does it mean that I’m not really a liberal? 🙂

    On a more serious note, I think that some of the “liberals” you identify in your post as supporting speech codes, etc., are the people like Abe Foxman, who have criticized the mosque, and got a lot of criticism from liberals for doing so (we liberals are tricky that way…).

    Finally, while it doesn’t really matter to my argument, I hope you can see the difference in degree and type between encouraging people to not using racial epithets and discouraging the building of a mosque. Aside from the different power relationships involved, it costs so little to change our language compared to the benefit we receive–the relative costs of not building the mosque are much greater.

  12. Nate W, that’s the spirit — have a little fun with this!

    When it comes to speech codes, I think too few people are concerned about where the environment of political correctness is taking us on college campuses. Here is one example, but there are literally hundreds in the last year alone.

  13. While I do not endorse speech codes in general and think there have been some definite problems such as this, I’ve gotta push back on the example that you’re citing.

    The Augusta State Case cited seems awfully similar to the Eastern Michigan case in which the counseling program expelled a student for refusing to counsel gay clients. The graduate program in question was a counseling program that complied with the ACA’s code of ethics, which includes the following:

    Counselors are aware of their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors and avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants.

    The student in the case you cite asked to refer a gay client to another counselor rather than engage in any counseling that could “affirm the client’s homosexual behavior.” I think that the review panel had it right:

    Ametrano, the Eastern Michigan professor, who was on the review panel that expelled Ward, said that the requirements that counselors work with clients of a range of views and background are essential. She noted that counselors regularly work with clients who make decisions about such matters as birth control, sex, drug use, abortion and many other choices that a counselor may or may not support. And clients come from a variety of backgrounds and sexual orientations. A counselor can’t be effective, she said, with litmus tests on who may be helped.

    The judge who reviewed the expulsion ruled that the requirement was legitimate, stating that “the counseling association’s code of ethics, as applied at Eastern Michigan, was ‘not a prohibition on a counselor making statements about their values and beliefs in a setting other than with a client,’ and was in fact ‘quite narrowly drawn’ with the purpose of protecting clients served by counselors.”

    I have read the complaint in the Augusta State case, and it appears the student’s argument was that she never brought her opinions on LGBT issues into the counseling room, and that the faculty’s insistence that she participate in remediation was without basis. All I will say is that the remediation she describes in the complaint is nothing like what is described in he WND article, and if the faculty reasonably believed that her attitude and statements in class indicated that she could not effectively counsel gay or transgendered individuals, then remediation was likely appropriate. We have to distinguish between pure scholarship, where speech codes are mostly inappropriate and counterproductive, and curriculum designed to facilitate client interaction and professional competence.

  14. If Jews don’t believe the LDS church is true, then who cares if we baptize a person who is dead? Such a measure should be meaningless to your average Jewish person.

    I think on a religious level a devoted Jew would not care, but can totally understand the reaction on a cultural level as bookslinger has demonstrated. This actually made me think of another controversial topic, prop 8. If we don’t believe that any marriage other than LDS temple marriages are eternal, then who cares if gays get married? To put it bluntly there are 2 types of marriage: LDS temple or ‘other’, why should we really care what is in the other category.

    To me on a religious level, both the angry Jew and the angry Mormon are showing an insecurity in their own doctrines.

  15. “Just to be clear, I am not criticizing the Church leaders’ decision to agree to the demands of Jewish petitioners asking for such baptisms to stop. I am instead taking to task the Mormons who criticize the Church for not following through more completely on such a request.”

    No Fuzzy headed logic here folks. Move along.

    Seriously, this whole post iantotally bizzarebbyou agree that the conservatives are wrong, but that the liberals who agree with you are wrong too because they care about feelings. Are you just making this claim ip?

  16. Geoff B.,
    Good to hear it’s all in fun. I’d hate to see a once-rational human being turn to the dark side of irrationality. Your recent global warming post had me worried that such a transformation had occurred, and my initial reaction to this post cemented my worries–but it appears as if the global warming post is just an anomaly, and you remain, for the most part, dedicated to rational thought.
    Even if you are a radical right-wing propagandist bent on world domination.

  17. While I think the Center is in bad taste being so close to Ground Zero, If they meet the zoning requirements they can have their building.
    The reality is, free speech has to be free for everyone, or it is not free for anyone. The same holds with freedom of religion.
    I am not a believer in the Bush Doctrine of preemptive strikes. I’m not going to tear down a mosque, simply to prevent future terrorist attacks. BTW, it will house a mosque, even though it is called a cultural center. In the USA, many of the cultural centers (such as at ISNA in Indianapolis) have a mosque inside, but they cover the dome so it cannot be seen from the outside.

  18. Rame, that is basically how I feel.

    Tim, if you read my post very carefully (setting aside the hyperbole) you will find that I basically agree with the “reasonable liberal” position on this issue, which is summarized by Rame in #19. This is probably your position as well. I couldn’t very well say that, could I? My Fox News access might be blocked.

  19. By the way, shout out to Nate W for comment #14. Really smart, interesting comment. Made me think more about the issue. Thanks Nate.

  20. “Aside from the different power relationships involved, it costs so little to change our language compared to the benefit we receive–the relative costs of not building the mosque are much greater.” – Nate W. post 12

    Nate, I’m curious how you see this to be the case. Changing our language involves changing our thinking and how we perceive the world. This can have far larger and wider ranging effects than whether or not a building is constructed.

    As far as the actual construction of the mosque near ground zero goes, I think it’s a bit tacky, but I respect their protected constitutional right to exercise their religion in any legal way they wish.

  21. Doug:

    I’m not sure I was clear about what I meant. My metric for cost is how much morally legitimate activity is stifled by foregoing the act in the name of politeness. I know morally legitimate is a loaded term, and I am using it to distinguish these acts from acts that someone has a right to do. My criteria for whether an act is morally legitimate is whether it is motivated out of goodwill or self-actualization. I think we can agree that a person’s exercise of religion falls into these categories, where using derogatory language generally does not. My metric for a benefit is how forgoing an act can create community, foster mutual respect and encourage society to recognize the dignity of certain individuals. This is inherently a “liberal” metric, as it extensively borrows from humanist ideals, and it has a thumb on the scale towards those with less social capital. Notwithstanding, I think it is a good way to view whether a particular norm of political correctness is justified.

  22. Nate:

    Interesting approach. I have to disagree from my perspective about limiting speech. Speech limited through political correctness via social pressures is one thing, but speech codes and hate speech laws I think (mind you I’m not a lawyer) fly in the face of the Constitution. I would rather someone be able to say something hateful to me or rude to my children than have everyone’s speech stiffled. After all, I’m a big boy and can defend myself, verbally or otherwise, should the need arise. I worry about the slippery slope when we limit what can be said. I do agree 100% that politeness is the preferred path.


    I didn’t realize this bit of information:

    “What is the purpose of this mosque and Islamic center, the name of which, Cordoba House, is taken from a city that became the Moorish capital after Catholic Spain was conquered and came under Islamic rule for eight centuries before the Reconquista of 1492?

    How would Muslims in the Middle East react to the building of a Crusader House in the Holy Land, funded by the Vatican and built around a chapel dedicated to Pope Urban II?” (

    I still support their right to build the mosque, but if this is where the name derives from, then insensitive might be a bit nice of a term. I certainly can understand why people might get upset, and the author poses an interesting question about the level of toleration we would see from Muslims if the roles were reversed. In any event, with PR moves like this, they are being their own worst enemy.

  23. Doug D, agreed. This is kind of the point I was trying to make. As a conservative, I should support the right of a landowner to build what he wants on his land if he has the right zoning. We can’t block the neo-Nazis from building a cultural center two blocks from a synagogue. Would it be incredibly insensitive and inpolite? No doubt. Same with building a Cordoba House near the WTC site. To be clear, there are many, many reasons to see this move as insensitive and inpolite. But we can’t base law on that.

  24. Doug G.:

    I agree that any law that laws that limit free speech are presumptively unconstitutional, and i do not support them on principle. I am only talking about social norms, etc. What I am trying to get at with my approach when political correctness, politeness, etc., is a valid reason to forgo an act or forgo speech, and under what circumstances we as a society should try to develop those social norms rather than follow a more libertarian social framework. In any event, those norms (as norms) should not be enforced by the force of law or state action.

  25. Doug D. Sorry for the typo.

    And the folks building the community center were trying to evoke the spirit of mutual tolerance that existed in Cordoba for nearly 800 years:

    For what it’s worth, the Catholic Encyclopedia also notes the high degree of tolerance in medieval Cordoba:

    Not to say that this can’t be double-secret code, but this seems like a common interpretation of what Cordoba stands for.

  26. Nate W.

    Thanks for the follow up information. I always like seeing things from as many perspectives as possible.

  27. Everybody, Muslim does not equal extremist, and it definately does not equal terrorist or terrorist-sympathisizer. Don’t let the media split us asunder. I for one stand hand-in-hand with our Muslim brothers and sisters, against terrorism and strongly in favor of religious freedom. I invite those currently in opposition to the Mosque to join us.

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