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02.26.2012 _____________________

In Saudi Arabia some drugs were once impossible to get in hospitals because they contained alcohol, which is prohibited in Islam. Conservative clerics argued against their use, because to use alcohol was to act against the Word of God.

Today, imagine a major hospital in the United States supported by a Waqf, a Muslim charity that employed both Muslims and non-Muslims. Could it operate if it excluded alcohol-based drugs? Would we permit it to deny healing to its patients, even non-Muslims, because of the Islamic prohibition against pork?

“Believe it or not, (pigs’) genetic makeup is pretty close to humans,” says Dr. Samer Mattar, a bariatric surgeon. The human body uses the pig part as a scaffold or guide to remodel and repair itself and eventually, the pig’s tissue is replaced by human tissue, providing a permanent repair. Amazing. Could the Waqf deny that therapy based on religious belief?

Imagine.

Imagine if a privately owned auto-parts manufacturer, in the U.S. heartland, was bought by a Christian Scientist who decided not to provide any employee health care coverage because he believed that all healing came from God.

Imagine.

When Catholic bishops ask to be treated outside the law, not in their churches but within the community and marketplace, they are asking for a theocratic dispensation that our Founding Fathers never envisioned.

When the Catholic Church was unwilling to hold accountable those who preyed upon the young and the vulnerable, they acted outside the law. Giving dispensation, Rick Santorum shifted the blame away from his church: “Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.”

“And were it not for God’s favor upon you and His grace, not one of you would ever have remained pure.” Quran, The Light, 24:20

Sen. Kelly Ayotte and 36 cosponsors recently proposed the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act” that would exempt insurance providers and purchasers — and not just those who are religiously affiliated — from any mandate to provide services that are contrary to their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

Imagine.

Her proposed legislation could trump the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. It could supersede the 1990 Supreme Court, “Employment Division v. Smith,” case, which considered peyote use in religious ceremonies. The 5-4 decision, written by Justice Scalia, stated, “To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.”

When Ayatollah Khamenei warns, “In light of the realization of the divine promise by almighty God, the Zionists and the Great Satan (America) will soon be defeated.”

Paranoid and delusional. I hate that.

When Santorum warned, “Satan has his sights on the United States of America” and “Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition.”

I took it personally.

When Santorum stated President Obama’s agenda is, —» about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology.”

I took it personally.

When Franklin Graham said he couldn’t “categorically” say Obama wasn’t Muslim, asserted that Obama has given Islam a “free pass” and said the Muslim world sees Obama as a “son of Islam,” because the president’s father and grandfather were Muslim, claims that are demonstrably false, I heard his words between the words.

I took it personally.

I used to take all these attacks personally. To attack Islam, to attack liberals, academics, sensualists, “the Other,” was to attack me.

Today, I have clarity. Kelly Ayotte, the bishops, Rick Santorum and Franklin Graham have liberated me.

I understand.

“They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand.” Isaiah 44:18

They are not attacking me — they are attacking all who are not like them. All who are not them are “the Other.”

They are not attacking me — they are attacking America.

These are the new Taliban, mullahs, ayatollahs, who want to elevate religious law, Sharia law, God’s law, above the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. When they speak of respect for rights of conscience they are speaking only of their rights and their conscience. Not mine. Not yours.

Fearful of changes they can neither foresee nor control, trapped in their ignorance, they are launching a new attack on America. They want to be your deciders. Ask them how many children you can have, what books you can read, what medical treatment you are entitled to, who you can marry, and what you can do in your bedroom.

They will decide.

Ask them if science is true.

They will decide.

And when they don’t like who you are they can decide to go to war with you.

You want marriage equality? They’ll go to war with you. You want to control your own body. They’ll go to war with you.

You believe in climate change and evolution. They will really go to war with you.

Their patriarchal, my-way-or-the-highway confrontation in the public square, their attack on science, on American principles, all embellished by Scripture, is an attack on all the principles embraced by this country’s Founding Fathers.

In the end, remember that when we embrace truth, when we chip away the plaster and open our eyes and our ears, when we understand with our heart, when we love rather than fear, then we can be healed.

America needs a lot of healing. This winter has been mild but the nights are still long, dark and cold. This winter of discontent is lasting too long.

This column appeared originally in the Portsmouth Herald.

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