Palin’s Right on Koran Burning, Wrong on NY Islamic Center

For an encouraging moment it looked like Sarah Palin would uphold the freedom of religion. Not so much.

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For an encouraging moment it looked like Sarah Palin had stepped up to the plate, abandoning the bumper-sticker politics of fear to uphold what is truly American: the freedom of religion.

Then she kept typing.

For days, leading Republicans had refused to denounce plans by a Florida pastor to commemorate the September 11 attacks on America with the most un-American of acts, burning Korans. In a year when electoral politics are being tainted by fears--fear of Muslims, the ludicrous fear that President Obama is a Muslim--some in the GOP face another fear, that of calming the fears of people more likely to vote Republican. So while serious people, ranging from Obama to Gen. David Petraeus and the Vatican, urged people not to participate in the offensive and dangerously provocative display, GOP leaders were quiet.

[Read more about the 2010 elections.]

Half-term former Alaska governor and former GOP vice presidential candidate Palin did the right thing--if not the far-right thing--Wednesday night, calling book-burning “antithetical to American ideals.” As she wrote on her Facebook page:

I would hope that Pastor Terry Jones and his supporters will consider the ramifications of their planned book-burning event. It will feed the fire of caustic rhetoric and appear as nothing more than mean-spirited religious intolerance. Don’t feed that fire. If your ultimate point is to prove that the Christian teachings of mercy, justice, freedom, and equality provide the foundation on which our country stands, then your tactic to prove this point is totally counter-productive.

Unfortunately, Palin could not resist reaching out to the fearful, and compared the destruction of religious books with the building of an Islamic center in southern Manhattan. The center--not a mosque, actually, and not actually at Ground Zero, as Thomas Jefferson Street blogger Robert Schlesinger has already noted here--is, like the Koran-burning idea, an “unnecessary provocation,” Palin wrote.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on the “ground zero mosque” controversy.]

That’s hardly an endorsement of freedom of religion. Or even of the right of Muslim people to use a gym, auditorium, or a restaurant, all of which are planned for the Islamic center.

Oh--and a library, too. That’s where, Palin might take note, books are kept.

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