Each week the Keizertimes asks community leaders a question about current events.  To see more of this week’s answers or answers to past questions log onto www.keizertimes.com and click on In the Ring.

This week’s question: Should Muslim mosques enjoy the same freedom of religion as other buildings of worship? And is the New York City mosque a special case?

Hayley Rothweiler, student and Keizer activist—
Of course Muslims should be able to enjoy the same freedom of religion as other buildings of worship. It is written in our constitution that they (Muslims) have the right to do that, along with every other religion.

There have been claims going around that Islam is not even a real religion, but, it has been around for 1600 years, it is the fastest growing religion in the world, and they have more of a right than many others of those who wish to practice their religion freely and openly. It is possible for any religion to exist and worship openly and freely as guaranteed by the first amendment.

Secondly, the NYC mosque is not a special case. I hear night after night how that area is “hallowed ground,” but this is not the case. If this really were hallowed ground, there wouldn’t be a Burger King or McDonald’s around the corner or street vendors pedaling their goods on the sidewalks right outside the fence that circles the actual spot that is ground zero.

I can say that I did not need to see pictures of what happened. I still have the images of that day fresh in my mind today. And here was some guy yelling at me about a book of pictures of it. Here was a man capitalizing on the misfortune of others for his own personal gain. I can tell you that ground zero is in no way treated as hallowed ground, and the areas around it are not treated it like that either.

The building under question is already used as a place of worship by Muslims, and the intent is not even really to build a mosque, but a community center where worship will take place. I can tell you that the same set up is used by churches and synagogues alike across the United States. We have no right to deny them the ability to build this.

JoAnne Beilke, board member, Chemeketa Community College—
Yes, Yes…. The constitution says freedom of religion.  We take away their right,  then when will ours go?  It is the law.  Now politically I know this is hard but I have studied the Holocaust at the Museum of Tolerance and witnessed the rights of people being taken away.  It is the start of something this country cannot afford to do is take away our rights in the constitution.  Look at our own history of Indians, blacks, women  in this country.  This right to freedom is very fragile and should be guarded and has been guarded by wars.  No matter my personal opinion I am for our personal freedoms.

Frank Pauley, retired educator—
This community center is a wedge issue to get the American people off track. We should be focusing on getting more industry developed in the U.S. instead of pretending we don’t believe in the First Amendment. It is not a slap in the face of 9/11 families. The reactionary right-wing response opposes the very nature of our national values: liberty and tolerance. Let’s drop the hate and understand each other better.

Art Bobrowitz, Compass Rose Consulting—
I was not aware that Muslim mosques did not enjoy freedom of religion in this country.

The proponents for building a mosque near the 9/11 site do have the right to build. Is it a wise choice to locate close to the 9/11 site? No. Along with freedom come caveats called responsibility and respect. Religious freedom involves a responsibility and obligation to make appropriate decisions. That is not only relative to the denomination itself but to other religions and respect for their believers.

Of all the locations in New York, does a mosque need to be in that exact location? Can Muslim worshipers be accommodated in another location? The freedom to worship is represented by our ability to experience our respective houses of worship. Those buildings should be built with a purpose of adding richness to a community and not built by painful memories.

Building a house of worship in a community should be a sign of a hopeful and optimistic future and not a continuous reminder of a painful past.

Pat Ehrlich and Jim Willhite, Gubser Neighborhood Association—
In most places the siting of religious buildings just as the siting of business and residential buildings is controlled by local zoning ordinances.  We would doubt many of the ordinances have a specificity to cite particular religions and what they can do.  Therefore, in our opinion, the location of a mosque, synagogue, cathedral or church would be treated the same.  We really need to remember that it was not the Muslim religion that caused the events on 9/11.  We had our own local character who did us in in Oklahoma City.

Dave Bauer, co-owner, R. Bauer Insurance—
Our constitution does allow for freedom of religion.  Unless there is information found with regard to a religion that is harmful to our citizens or our Nation, then that religion should be allowed to practice its faith. Often the Muslim faith is tied to hate and violence for our country.  There can be “bad guys” in all religions. But any religion that profess that violence toward our country or our citizens should not be allowed to practice.

As for building of a mosque on the World Trade Center site, NO. But not only no to a mosques, but no churches, or synagogue or  any religions building. Not because of anything but the reverence to the citizens of our country that died in that horrific event. There wouldn’t be enough space for buildings of all faiths, and that would be the only way to honor the people that died on that sacred ground. Sometimes some of us “sacrificing a right” may best for all of our rights.

John Morgan, MorganCPS Consulting—
Absolutely the same. Period. After all, this is America, not some fascist dictatorship!