You may have heard about the mosque being built by the Muslim community in my hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. After county officials approved the building and issued a permit, concerned local citizens brought suit to block construction. Charges by the opponents ranged from notification errors on the part of the county planners to fear that the mosque would be a place to train terrorists and promote the adoption of Sharia law. While construction continued, the case dragged on with the judge finally ruling that Islam was indeed a religion with all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and that the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission had erred in the way they handled the case.
The response of the commission is that the judge is calling upon them to discriminate on the basis of religion. They will appeal his decision. Meanwhile, the building of the mosque continues with the goals of completion and occupancy by the beginning of Ramadan.
An article in the Daily News Journal today includes the comment by a commissioner that the judge was asking the commission “to treat the Islamic Center in a different way than how it approved construction plans for Grace Baptist Church next door.” The debate will go on, but the comment about the Baptist church caught my attention.
Many forget that our many of our Baptist forebears came to “the colonies” (what would become the United States of America) so that they could escape persecution for their beliefs. Their beliefs and practices were out of step with the state church in Great Britain. Even here, they often found themselves attacked by the establishment because they seen as lawless rabble who refused to be controlled. Some government leaders seemed to think they were a threat to society and should be suppressed.
Fast forward to 2012. Who would our Baptist mothers and fathers support in this debate in Murfreesboro? They might not understand about zoning laws and advertising in local papers, but they would stand for every man and woman to have the opportunity to freely assemble and worship without harassment.
Where will you stand?