There is an extreme group of worshipers lurking within our borders. Their only allegiance is to a foreign power, and their religious order is considered incompatible with our democratic system. They have separate schools, and their worship services are held in a language other than English. They claim to be Americans just like us, but how can we not be leery? They must be here to undermine our American system, and patriots must stand up to defend our nation against this very real threat.
Today, statements like these might bring to mind the controversy surrounding Islam this summer. A small but vocal minority of Americans suddenly became swept up in an anti-Islamic movement based on fears that they were secretly training terrorists in our own backyards. Arguments were made that we should ban its members from the Supreme Court and the Oval Office; some went so far as to say that we should ban the whole religion itself.
Unfortunately, the statements above actually describe the anti-Catholic sentiment that swept the nation in the 1920s.
Think about it. Catholics are loyal to the Pope, a foreign power, they have their own parochial schools and, at that time, many parishes held mass in Latin. Groups like the KKK came out against these anti-American worshipers and the infamous hate group vandalized several Catholic churches.
In the 1928 presidential election, Al Smith was the Democratic candidate running against Herbert Hoover. Smith was frequently accused being a puppet of the Vatican, a Roman-Catholic Manchurian Candidate, if you will. Doubts about his allegiance to America ultimately cost him the election, but after World War II, society labeled communists as the biggest threat to America, and Catholicism wasn’t such a big deal. The issue resurfaced during John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign, but after his election, the fear of Catholicism subsided when Americans saw that the president’s religion didn’t play much of a role in his policy decisions. America has always found a way to demonize a group as being fervently anti-American; first it was the abolitionists, then the slave holders, later it was the Irish, then the Italians, then the Catholics, then the commies, then the civil rights leaders, then the feminists, then the liberals, then the Latinos, and now the Muslims.
In America, we have a grand tradition of sweeping ourselves into a mass hysteria when a group we’re not familiar with moves into town.
In reality, Muslims—that body of people whose religion is Islam—are not terrorists. They are not here to secretly infiltrate our nation and turn it into an oppressive régime that bases its decisions on their religious code. They won’t run for office and then push for the inclusion of God into public schools. They won’t because they know what it’s like to be marginalized. They are Americans; they just want to worship freely and in peace. They want to go to mosque and not worry that someone will attack them for their beliefs.
The real terrorists are those who persecute and intimidate peace-loving Americans every day for their religious beliefs. Like it or not, we are secular nation, and no religion will ever reign supreme over our Constitution. We are not a “Christian nation,” as some have labeled us; we are a nation that happens to have a lot of Christians in it, but also a lot of other people who aren’t.
We must realize that we are all Americans; an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. Any limitation on religious freedom is an ominous sign that our nation is failing. Stand up, and support the right to worship however you please. Right now it might be the Muslims, but what if it’s the Buddhists, or the atheists, or the Jews, or the Catholics? Will you stand up then?
Kevin Heim is a junior journalism major.