I’m sure most everyone has heard by now of the Florida church that is planning on burning the Koran on Saturday to commemorate, in the most wrong-headed way imaginable, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The book-burning exercise has been roundly condemned throughout the world, and General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has warned that the act would put the lives of American troops in even greater danger.
It is unnecessary, but I nevertheless want to add my voice to the chorus of disapproval for two reasons. First, book-burning is unacceptable, period. Anyone who believes in free speech believes that the appropriate response to speech is more speech, not censorship — and certainly not the pointlessly provocative act of burning a book that is sacred to another religion. This is America, not Nazi Germany, and the ignorant members of the Dove World Outreach Center would do well to remember that.
Second, the contemplated action of this obscure church is exactly the kind of thing that makes non-religious Americans cringe in shame and shake their heads in dismay — and I am sure it is even more embarrassing and infuriating to Americans who are religious. America is founded on fundamental concepts of religious tolerance. Freedom of religion means that we put up with the apparently nutty members of the Dove World Outreach Center and allow them to gather and celebrate their religious beliefs, whatever they may be, without interference. All we ask is that they behave responsibly and respect the views of others who hold different beliefs. Any Americans who put members of our armed forces, who already are in harm’s way, in even more peril in order to receive publicity or to further their obscure religious beliefs are acting with unforgivable recklessness. They are perversely giving America a black eye for religious intolerance when, to the contrary, the very existence of the Dove World Outreach Center is compelling evidence of the sweeping religious tolerance that characterizes this country.
What the members of the Dove World Outreach Center are planning on doing is shameful, and they should be denounced by every American.