Just because an act is constitutionally protected doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I made that argument a few weeks ago in the case of the mosque planned for a site near Ground Zero, and I’ll make it again today in the case of a small Florida church whose members plan to burn copies of the Quran this coming Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Yes, the pastor and members of Gainesville’s Dove World Outreach Center — a most unfitting name, it would seem — have the right to burn books, even religious ones. But it’s a particularly stupid idea on several levels, not the least of which is that it could further endanger the lives of American soliders in Afghanistan, as Gen. David Petraeus warns.
It represents a real hostility toward Muslims, unlike the specific and very narrow debate over whether a mosque should be located so close to that still-fresh national wound (no matter how the mosque’s supporters have tried to depict its opponents). A single, small church cannot on its own violate the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom, but its planned Quran-burning truly is a departure from the general attitude of religious tolerance that the First Amendment was meant to foster. These people can claim neither offense nor imposition, palpable or otherwise, from the mere existence of Islamic holy books. They don’t seek compromise, only intimidation.
And speaking as a Christian, I think the church’s plans betray a misunderstanding of the faith they profess to hold.