Religious Freedom For Me, Not For Thee

Today, Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States.  Let’s briefly set aside that this would appear to violate both Article VI of the Constitution and the First Amendment.  It’s a clear religious test.  It would allow the federal government to discriminate against someone solely on the grounds of their religion. This is beyond unacceptable, and a precedent we should never allow to be set.

Tonight is the second night of Hanukkah.  Yet if you’re like me, you can still look through your timeline (or perhaps on the front lawn of the Harris County Jail) and find folks that believe the best way to spread the love of Jesus Christ is to recoil at and belittle anyone that has the temerity to wish you “happy holidays”.

There are religions in this country other than mine. Some people don’t even have one. This is not only expressly allowed, but protected under our constitution. The constitution exists not only to facilitate the will of the majority, but to secure the rights of the minority in that process.  It is a balance.  As far as religion goes, this balance must extend to us all.  Even with the religions which we disagree.

I would like to reject Donald Trump as a clown, but his utter disregard for religious protections combined with his rhetoric makes him a very dangerous clown. I continue to trust both Republicans and especially American voters will put an end to this show at the appropriate time.  The sooner, the better.

But we should not allow this moment to pass without committing once and for all that religious freedom is something that is for all of us, or it ultimately will be for none of us.  For that, I’m going to repost below something I wrote just over six years ago.  The circumstances are a bit different and at times I’ve even wondered if I was headed in the right direction here.  But when faced with the ugliness that Donald Trump wishes to appeal to within ourselves and our fellow countrymen, I’m more convinced today that it represents how I feel, and what we must protect for the America that I love to be worth anything.

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to you and yours.


Remembering A Friend – And The Key Founding Principle Of Our Country

Originally posted 11-8-09


I first met Mark when he was still in high school. His family were recent immigrants to the United States and shared a mutual friend of the family. They operated a restaurant in my hometown, and were finally ready to step up to their part of the American dream and purchase their first house. Our friend had referred them to my father to act as their realtor, and I assisted him in the transaction.

At age 15, Mark understood the housing market and business transactions better than most twice his age. It became clear when showing homes that he would actually been the deciding force in which home was purchased, and I quickly learned to make sure he understood and was pleased with the implications of each potential home. It was truly a special day when the family closed on their first home, and the celebration afterward with a large extended family was one to behold.

It was shortly after this time that I made my one and only run for public office, and Mark volunteered for my campaign, doing whatever was asked of him and initiating other tasks in his spare time. He loved his new home country, and seemed to understand and appreciate both the benefits and responsibilities of being an American better than many of us who inherited our citizenship. He took his entry level participation in politics seriously, but did so with an infectious enthusiasm that made all of us who came in contact with him appreciate our own country of birth even more.

Like most immigrants from his country, Mark’s family was quite religious, but my town didn’t have a Catholic parish for them to worship in. They chose a parish on the other side of Atlanta to worship with, because they had a long term plan to open a new parish within a few miles of their new home. The only time the family was not at the restaurant, they were usually involved some activity related to their congregation. Between his school schedule, work, and church, I understood how valuable the time he donated to my campaign, and later others, was. But he loved America, appreciated the Republican approach to freedoms within limited government, and wanted to do his part as a good citizen.

I made a point to eat lunch in Mark’s restaurant a few days after 9/11. Though he was in school, his mother had time to sit and talk with me on that rather sad day. I was especially interested in their perspective as “new” Americans, and wanted to make sure they were holding up well under the circumstances, though I still wasn’t sure many of us “old” Americans were holding up that well, either. She told me how much they remained proud to be here in this country, and to have been allowed to be a part of it. She spoke of how many others had been checking on the family during this time, reassuring them that everything was going to be O.K. It was a brief time, you may remember, when we were all Americans. There were no Republicans, there were no Democrats.

Before I left, I asked her if there was anything she needed. She told me that she had been searching for an American Flag to fly in front of the Restaurant, but all the stores had sold out. I told her I would see what I could do. It took about three days and a search committee of about 10 of my fellow Kiwanians, but she received a large flag that flew in front of her restaurant for years after.

I was able to work on a few campaigns with Mark before he went off to college. Through his hard work, good grades, and community activities, he was able to receive a scholarship to the University of Southern California. We traded the occasional note and visited when he came home during breaks. He maintained his enthusiasm and love of country. And I looked forward to him coming home after a summer foreign exchange trip to finish out a primary campaign which I was working on.

I stopped by the restaurant after the town’s 4th of July Parade and saw the sign on the door. As I looked closer and was realizing it wasn’t just a standard “Closed for the Holiday” sign, Mark’s father walked up behind me. The look on his face and the posture of his body instantly connected with the words “family emergency” on the sign. A proud man who rarely showed emotion, he instantly broke down as he tried to explain to me that Mark’s body was being flown into Atlanta that afternoon. He had drowned on the last day of his trip. He asked if there was any way I would be able to attend the funeral with the family that afternoon.

I agreed to go without hesitation, despite the campaign activities that were planned for the rest of the day. A grieving father’s personal request trumps parades and BBQ’s any day. But I didn’t understand why the funeral was that afternoon when he was not even home yet.

And this is where I should explain that Mark’s name was not Mark, but Mohammed, and his family was not Catholic, but Muslim. Muslim custom is that a person is buried before sundown, and thus he would be taken directly from his plane to the family’s mosque for a funeral service, then directly to the cemetery for burial. It is the only time I have ever been in a mosque, but I can attest that grief looks the same no matter the type of house of worship.


So, I’ve told you that so we can discuss this; Last week, a gunman at Ft Hood Texas opened fire on his fellow soldiers and civilians, killing 13 and wounding an additional 30. It’s easy to put this in the trite category of “senseless tragedy”, but the magnitude of the dead and wounded, the religion of the killer, and the fact he was preparing to deploy to a warzone that many now feel the country has lost its will to support will no doubt keep this story alive for some time to come. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those involved in this senseless act.

Unfortunately, there have already been many to single out the religion of the murderer as a singular sign that he “should have been watched” or should not have been in the military altogether. Since 9/11, it has been very easy to point to Muslims as guilty before proven innocent members of society. Anecdotal evidence of 3000 dead at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, or 13 dead at Ft. Hood makes a quick, off the cuff justification of doing so simple. It does not, however, make it right.

As easy as I switched the name and religion in my story, the same could be done for a terrorist named El-Amin who bombed sporting events, night clubs, and medical facilities targeting Americans, except that his name was Eric Robert Rudolph and he was a zealot of the Christian variety.

Instead of trying to choose between good religions and bad, I think it much easier as well as more appropriate to concern ourselves with zealots of any caliber. Yet, even trying to determine where the line is where one has crossed from devout into zealotry is problematic, and suggesting the government should have a standard for this stretches the limits of the Constitution.

I would ask my many Facebook friends who have been calling for Muslims to be restricted in their roles within the Armed Services how they would feel if Christians were similarly singled out. While I’m sure there are many who will offer the simplistic answer that we were founded as a “Christian Nation”, I would ask them what their reaction was when they learned that various “right wing”, mostly Christian groups were listed as potential terrorist organizations by the U.S. Justice Department earlier this year.

At the end of the day, I do not fear Muslims. I fear zealots of any religion. But the greatest fear of all is that of a government that views religion in general as a destabilizing, threatening force. We have for the last decade or more pointed at Islamic regimes in the middle east as a threat to our national security. I would suggest we take a harder look at the use of the actions of zealots as an excuse to monitor or track religious activities of those we don’t agree with, or those we fear.

Once the pattern and practice is established, it does not take much for the government to change the names of those under surveillance from Mohammed to Mark. We should not be allowing our fears for national security to lay the groundwork for additional intrusions or limitations upon or freedom of religion. If we allow the precedent to be set with Muslims, we should not be surprised when the government wishes to track the Methodists.


  1. saltycracker says:

    Trump continues to resonate with those that see a total failure or rejection by those we empowered to protect the compliant from the barbarians in our midst.

    • blakeage80 says:

      Yes. He’s taking advantage of a leadership vacuum on the political right. We’ve seen how well leadership vacuums have worked in the Middle East. It allowed radical elements to seize control. I believe that is exactly what is happening with Mr. Trump. Maybe, just maybe, these comments from him will shake some voters awake and they’ll look a little harder at the rest of the field.

      • Wabbit Season says:

        I think what you’re seeing is the rise of the populist candidate. I troll here a lot and from what I’ve read most of these posts are full of equal parts of condescension and vitriol towards the unwashed masses who have neither the time or inclination to sit behind a computer all day and read Red State. While Trump’s solution may be untenable he says what a lot of folks think; Islam is dangerous because people that follow it like to kill and blow stuff up and we can’t tell the ones who do from the ones who don’t. Moreover, he gets away with saying it when none of us could without getting internet shamed. Since he clearly craves the attention, perhaps the solution is just to ignore him like a three year old on a tirade, because clearly attacking him isn’t working out for the establishment.

        • seenbetrdayz says:

          Nailed it.

          Folks are gonna have to stop attacking Trump. It’s just making him stronger.

          Attack Rand Paul instead, please.

          • TheEiger says:

            The most recent poll out of Iowa has Trump in second behind Cruz and in a statical tie with Rubio. I would’t say attacking him doesn’t work.

            Yes, he still leads in the national polls, but the nation as a whole isn’t paying attention yet. Just the early states.

        • benevolus says:

          ” Islam is dangerous because people that follow it like to kill and blow stuff up and we can’t tell the ones who do from the ones who don’t.”

          I agree with your assessment. In broader terms I think he is appealing to people who crave a more simplistic world. The fact is, we probably CAN tell the difference between these groups if we choose to. But many people just don’t trust complexity, whether it is sociological, scientific, historical, whatever. Common Core, climate change, political correctness, immigration, transportation, all these things become more complex in a more interconnected world and I think it is overwhelming to some. They want to be able to be rude, isolated, and trust their own instincts. No fancy experts necessary.

  2. Jawgadude says:

    Charlie, the mistake you’re making is in assuming Islam is a religion. It is not. Islam is a fascist political system cloaked by a violent manmade pseudo-religion. We are at war with this system and we must use all means available to win, even if innocent people are harmed in the process.

    • John Konop says:

      You better hope what you said in not true. In the world we have around in the billions the amount of people that practice Islam. Do you really want to declare war on a group that large? We have an issue with Muslim fundamentalist…..estimates between 2 to 7 percent of Muslims. Why would you declare war on over 90 percent of a religion for a problem that is less than 10 percent? We need to work with the over 90 percent to help root out the less than 10 percent. If we do it your way, we are playing into the hands of the fundamentalist.

  3. D_in_ATL says:

    Funny how people think that ‘The Donald’ can somehow be stopped. After he wretched out his latest vile he goes to SC to cheering crowds. Jeb! was somewhere else, sitting on a pile of cash listening to crickets. You really have to think that Hillary is beside herself with the how lucky she has been with this guy framing the debate.

  4. IndyPendant says:

    I still say Trump is working for Clinton to expose Republicans.

    He’s saying what the “base” believes, but the legit candidates are afraid to say.

    • Enjoy the Silence says:

      Whether he is working for Clinton or not, doesn’t even thinking that such a possibility actually is the truth tell you all you need to know about a large portion of the right-wing?

  5. gcp says:

    Yes Trumpet uses hyperbole and exaggeration; bar all Muslims, saw “thousands” celebrating in NJ after 911, Mexico is sending us its rapists and murderers but let’s look at the other side.

    Burnie blames climate change for increased terrorism. The Obama administration talks about “gun safety” (gun control), tells us not to stereotype Muslims and refuses to use the term “radical Islam.” Saw an MSNBC show last night that spent the first thirty minutes talking about Trumpet and ignored San Bernardino.

    Both sides are equally goofy but the Trumpet side gets most of the criticism while the other side does not get equal publicity for it’s crazy statements.

    • David C says:

      “Burnie blames climate change for increased terrorism.”

      Not so much Bernie, but the Pentagon. The point being that when you throw the kind of droughts, flooding, hurricanes etc. that climate change is making worse into a Third World that can’t handle it, you create instability. For example, in Syria. Where before the uprising against Assad you had the worst three year drought in Syrian history (, driving masses into the cities and leading to massive unemployment and poverty, a powder keg that erupted into the Arab Spring. Said uprising helped create the power vacuum that gets exploited by the Islamic State, as well as a refugee crisis that’s overwhelming Europe at the moment.

      • gcp says:

        You can’t blame the two Paris terrorist incidents, San Bernardino, Chattanooga, Ft Hood, or 911 on climate change.

        Burnie’s climate change response was in reference to the recent Paris incident. His linkage between the two issues is absurd.

    • benevolus says:

      Those aren’t very good examples of current leftist goofy. Although I will add that the Dems are probably trying to lay low and let the R’s keep digging.

      • Noway says:

        You got that right! With all of the civilized world critisizing Trump today, it seems like Trump used a big shovel yesterday!

  6. Trey A. says:

    Perfect column, Charlie.

    Being a fellow Fayettevillian, I’d like to know which restaurant Mohammed’s family owned (or does own).

    Saw this yesterday from a French journalist who spent over 100 days in ISIS captivity. Thought it was pretty powerful stuff. Full link at the end.

    “What does the Islamic State propaganda rely on? First, they say Western society is not suitable for a Muslim to live in. A Muslim should emigrate to a Muslim land, and preferably to the caliphate, because this caliphate that we are establishing is the dream land for all Muslims. And the other aspect, the other key point of ISIS propaganda, is based on the fact that Westerners marginalize Muslim, that there is racism and hatred. And basically, what have we witnessed last summer? First, hundreds of thousands of Muslims fleeing this dream land of Syria. It’s like—it’s just like if you had loads of Jews fleeing Israel just a couple of years after the state of Israel is established. I mean, that’s a—it contradicts all of the speech the state is based on and contracts itself on. And not only that, so they leave this land of sham, that is dream land for ISIS, to immigrate to lands of unbelievers, and on top of that, they are welcomed with open arms by the Western societies, who—and by many people in Europe who say, “Well, you are our brothers, and we will protect you. And that was so much a blow that I believe that one of the reasons behind the Paris attack was to disrupt this and to stop, to make us close our doors to the refugees, because, actually, welcoming refugees is not a terror threat to us, to our countries”

  7. Raleigh says:

    Boy the Republican establishment is about to come apart at the seams. I think I predicted a few months ago that the Donald would have faded from the scene by now but I was wrong. His appeal to the “undesirable faction” of the Republican Party has stayed very strong. The undesirables are people who identify as Tea Party and or conservative. Those groups feel establishment Republicans ignored and shortchanged them. Truly establishment Republicans should be asking themselves why rather than trying to tear down Trump.

    So what does the Republican Party want to be when it grows up? If the Tea Party and conservative types are not wanted by all means ask them to leave but in doing so you Republicans can kiss the White House goodbye and likely the House and Senate as well.

    • mjhicks says:

      @Raleigh. Your sentence “(i)f the Tea Party and conservative types are not wanted by all means ask them to leave but in doing so you Republicans can kiss the White House goodbye and likely the House and Senate as well.” in interesting. I suggest that they DO ask them to leave. While I agree in the short run that this MAY be the case, I think in the long run that it is becoming apparent that it is what NEEDS to happen.

      I have written before that I agree with many moderate Republican positions. But I absolutely REFUSE to be part of a party, a group, a clique that includes the type of bomb throwing demagogues within the party. I just don’t like them. I think they are bad for America.

      If the moderate Republicans purge the dangerous noise (and clean up their image), I would seriously consider them. But until then, I’m going to vote for the likable, naive, well-intentioned, left-of-center person that I may disagree with on occasion, instead of a person like Trump that supports what I believe are patently immoral positions.

      Every time I hear a Republican pundit, poster, or speaker defend or support him and his policies, it simply reaffirms my position to remain outside of the Republican party. I just ain’t going to do it.

    • saltycracker says:

      Fun choice huh ? We can watch the Don kick Mohammed’s butt or Hillary kick yours.

      Cruz or Rubio better get theirs moving.

    • Salmo says:

      What Trump proposed is blatantly unconstitutional, whether you like the idea. I find it interesting that the so-called “squishy”, ” establishment” Republicans, then, are the ones calling him out. Meanwhile, the Tea Party pols, they of the pocket constitution and “principled conservatism”, are virtually silent.

      What Charlie wrote, my friend, is what principled conservatism actually looks like. We have a more than 200-year tradition of religious protection. To throw that away out of fear or populist fervor is as far from being conservative as one can get. It is truly sad that you folks have managed to hijack the meaning of ” conservative”, at least in the Burkean sense, while cloaking yourselves in a costume of being principled constitutionalists. At this point, the only defining characteristic of the Tea Parties seems to be anger.

  8. HarryA says:

    My nephrologist is from Syria, I don’t even know where my cardiologist, electrophysiologist is from, but his first name is Mohammed, my Vascular is maybe from English stock, my GP is maybe from India or Pakistan, I’ve never bothered to ask. I don’t care what their religion is, nor do I stand on a soapbox and Shout, “I am a Christian”, which in and of itself means nothing. How many devote Christians have pandered, lied, given false witness, stolen and committed every other felony and misdemeanor in our judicial laws and biblical ones? I’m tired of the hypocrisy of “Christians” who may be THAT for an hour on Sunday and something less than THAT the other 167 hours in a week. WE are talking a cultural difference where women are still subservient to their husbands, let alone males, and where our Western Society refuses to acknowledge the differences in cultures. The same holds true when we look at the Far East and China. Shame on us. We either decide that we are Republican’s living in America and agree that the Republican Party is the Party of lower taxes, strong national security, a smaller and more efficient government, and unwavering defense of our Constitution, or we are lost.

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