| I can't tell you how relieved I am to learn that there are a hell of a lot more people like Mark West in Murfreesboro Tennessee than there are people like Evy Summers and Bob Shelton.
Mark West believes in freedom of religion.
That belief brought West out Monday night to a candlelight vigil in support of local Muslims in front of the Rutherford County Courthouse.
It also inspired the lifelong Baptist to make a donation to the building fund for a new mosque in Murfreesboro.
"I'm going down to Islamic Center of Nashville tomorrow and make a $100 donation," West said Monday night. "One hundred bucks is hard to come by these days, but it's a statement."
West was among about 150 people to attend Monday's night's vigil, organized in response to the recent fire at the construction site for the new mosque. Many in the crowd held candles or signs proclaiming such messages as "We're all in this together" and "My God is not a bigot." They also joined in singing "We Shall Overcome."
Of course, the ignoratti was out last night, too, but that is one of the intriguing, seemingly contradictory things about living in America...everyone has a right to make an utter ass out of themself in public.
On the outskirts a small but vocal group of mosque opponents made their presence known.
Collier Hopson drove his pickup to the vigil. In the back was a plywood sign bearing the spray-painted words "No Mosque."
He said that local Christians have a right to build churches. But mosques should be banned, he said.
"I don't support their beliefs," he said. " No one wants them here."
Standing in front of the pickup, Kimberly Kelly agreed. She said she is afraid of Muslims and that the violence from Iraq and other countries could come to Murfreesboro.
She said if the fire at the mosque site was arson as many suspect, Muslims deserved it.
"I think it was a piece of their own medicine," she said. "They bombed our country."
Where do you start with someone that fucking stupid? No one "deserves" to be a victim of a violent crime like arson simply for following a different religion, and there is no such thing as vigilante "justice." It is also unbelievably stupid to paint all Muslims with the terrorist brush because nineteen radicals flew planes into buildings one beautiful autumn day nine years ago. Muslims didn't bomb our country. Nineteen terrorists who hijacked a religion long before they hijacked those planes did that.
The smart and sane people who were there to show their support for their Islamic neighbors were not intimidated by the right-wing lunatics and pushed back against the fearmongering. Rachel Weese, who supports the construction of the mosque, told them their views were un-American and reminded them "We are supposed to be a beacon of hope."
It is also encouraging that Southern Baptist organizations are standing up for religious freedom.
Reverend Sam Page, the president-elect of the Southern Baptist national executive committee condemned the arson and the overt displays of religious bigotry. Recalling that Baptists were persecuted in the past, he said it was incumbent upon them to understand the importance of religious freedom. "It's time for us to stand up for the tolerance we believe in."
Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and an oponent of the Park51/Cordoba House project put it perfectly..."This is different," he said. "There's no Ground Zero in Murfreesboro."