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KULIGOWSKI: Obama doesn’t understand his country

Religious freedom ideal must include our history

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His handlers warned him about expressing his opinion on the proposed mosque two blocks from the former Twin Towers. But as with the professor Henry Gates issue, Mr. Obama just couldn't help himself. Regarding the Massachusetts matter, Mr. Obama blurted out that "the Cambridge police acted stupidly." This time, we may infer that Americans opposing the mosque are acting stupidly, or at least contrary to America's "values" and principles of "religious freedom."

The problem is that Mr. Obama, as an ideological alien, does not have a clue about the essence of America's Judeo-Christian founding. Before getting into why that terrible anti-Obama statement is made, let's look at Mr. Obama's mosque statements. His statements below were delivered recently to a Muslim audience at a White House Ramadan iftar dinner:

"But let me be clear: As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and that they will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure."

The writ of our Founders? In the iftar dinner speech, Mr. Obama presumes to know what "our Founders understood," as relating to religious freedom. Mr. Obama cites Thomas Jefferson and quotes the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, in part that "all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion."

I wonder if Mr. Obama knows the context of the Virginia Act and Thomas Jefferson's reasoning? The act prohibits the commonwealth of Virginia from compelling attendance at religious worship and financial support of religion. Significantly, in making his argument, Jefferson does not appeal to vague principles of "religious freedom" and "our values," as Mr. Obama does.

While Mr. Obama appeals to fuzzy notions that could never support religious freedom, Jefferson appeals to Virginia's common Christian faith. Shockingly to the postmodern reader, Jefferson in the Virginia Act points to the Lord of Virginia's religion as an example for why the state should not be involved in compelling worship:

State compulsions in matters of religion "tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions. ..."

Notice that Jefferson refers to the "Holy Author of our religion." That's quite a statement. Virginia had a common religion (until the U.S. Supreme Court illegally broke the chain of transmission in the public schools) and the Founders referred to the common religion of the states as "general Christianity." Virginia legislators of Jefferson's era believed the commonwealth's general religion should be advanced but that no one should be compelled to support any particular Christian denomination.

Jefferson's best argument for the state to cease compelling people to attend services and support religion is Christ's own example of propagating religion without coercion: "who, being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions. ..." Incidentally, Jefferson refers to Christ's "Almighty power" in the act.

Liberals, progressives, Marxists or whatever you choose to call far-left radicals like Mr. Obama always seem to omit the full context and reasoning when quoting the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom.

Mr. Obama is either ignorant of America's religious heritage or willfully ignores it. In fact, the president of the United States spoke for all Americans in Turkey in 2009, when he said:

"[We] do not consider ourselves a Christian nation, or a Muslim nation [was there ever a belief that we might be a Muslim nation?] but rather, a nation of citizens who are, uh, bound by a set of values."

Back in 2007, Mr. Obama told CBN News: "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation - at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."

Much attention has been drawn to the fact that Mr. Obama believes America is no longer a Christian nation, but perhaps more significant is his preface, "Whatever we once were."

How could a prospective president of the United States say "whatever we once were?" Does Mr. Obama really not know what we once were? Do we have the first president to have confessed ignorance of his country's own history? Or does it simply not matter to him in his quest to transform America fundamentally?

Mr. Obama, a man having no proper foundation of what America once was, could make these bizarre statements in his Cairo speech in June 2009 without questioning his teleprompter: "I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear."

The assertion that Islam has always been a part of America's story is laughable on its face. But then, what do the facts of early American history have to do with anything?

In the Cairo speech, Mr. Obama mentions one of his perceived responsibilities. I suggest that Mr. Obama get his responsibilities in order and first come to grips with the principles of history that produced the greatest freedom the world has ever seen.

Before speaking of religious freedom, it might be helpful to understand the American framework that provides for religious liberties. Otherwise, nothing can be prohibited so long as empty words of "religious freedom" are invoked.

Monte Kuligowski is a Virginia lawyer.

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