Obama & The Iftar Dinner

Yay, our blogging buddy Prof. K is back, with a unique take on President Obama's remarks about that Muslim center of some kind sorta close to Ground Zero. First let's deal with what he's not commenting on:
I’m not particularly interested in what these remarks and the President’s reaction to the reaction tell us about his political judgment or leadership style (though, of course, they do tell us volumes about both).
He takes up instead the question of what the remarks tell us about religious liberty. He finds that Obama's remarks at the dinner are pretty much parallel to what President Bush said at the first White House iftar dinner back in 2001. And he finds the message lacking in both cases:
For the most part, the proclamations and dinners have addressed a largely international audience and served a largely diplomatic purpose.
Indeed, for me it’s that audience that makes both President Bush’s 2002 statement and President Obama’s 2010 statement problematical.  The former statement refers to toleration and the latter to religious freedom as an American principle.  Both presidents insist that part of what defines us as Americans is our embrace of these principles.  When you’re speaking to a purely national audience, this is very effective rhetoric, appealing to solidarity, pride, and love of one’s own as motives to adhere to a universal principle.  But when there’s an international audience in the room, you can give them the impression that devotion to such a principle is merely a national idiosyncrasy, something that we Americans do because we want to, not because it’s just plain right.  Articulated in this way in front of this audience, commitment to religious liberty is as American as apple pie, but not necessarily as Scottish as haggis, as Japanese as sushi, or as Kurdish as kebabs.  When as a nation you wish to hold others accountable for their infringement on the universal natural right to religious liberty, this is not the right message to send.
Probably both Presidents were genuinely thinking of the Muslim American rather than the international audience, along the same lines as Washington's letter to the Jews of Newport, cited in the Bush remarks. I agree completely, however, that the remarks in both instances carry the danger Prof. K mentions. With this distinction: while Bush's wrong-message iftar dinner can be seen as a rhetorical aberration in light of his administration's firm and consistent stand in favor of religious liberty and defense of dissidents world-wide, Obama's statement is increasingly reflected in Administration policy, as we've had occasion to note.

And it turns out Prof. K. has written quite a bit about that as well.

On a different note, but still on the topic of this mosque, Msgr. Charles Pope wonders if Christian opponents of the Cordoba Initiative/Park 51 have given sufficient thought to how their own arguments could be turned on them. He thinks the mosque is manifestly a bad idea if "healing" is what's desired, and acknowledges the legitimate reasons for Americans to mistrust Islam.

But let’s be honest and sober. We as Catholics are heading south in the popularity ratings too. There are increasing  numbers in this country who consider us hateful, backward, sexist, homophobic, judgmental, and so forth. They think this of us because we have not signed on 100% with the cultural, sexual and social revolution. Many also distrust us on account of our handling of the Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis. It is not that far of a stretch to consider that within the next decades we too will discover many obstacles toward building Churches in prominent or visible places. At first opposition to us will be rooted in complaints that we will cause traffic etc. But the next step will be to refuse us zoning easements because we are sexist (no women priests, opposition to abortion) or anti-homosexual (No Gay marriage), insensitive (e.g. no Euthanasia),  and thus our “values” do not comport well with the community in question or our presence causes some to experience outrage or hurt. Hence our prominent presence in a community could be denied simply because others experience hurt or rage. (I do not say that such feelings about us are fair or right, I simply note their current existence).