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Kolbe Academy, Robert Spencer and religious liberty

Napa-Valley-RegisterLawrence Swaim, Napa Valley Register

The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento acted wisely in canceling Robert Spencer's speaking engagement on church property. Kolbe Academy Home School should now consider canceling his speech entirely at their conference in Sacramento later this month.

Spencer is a co-founder, along with Pam Geller, of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), a shrill and increasingly violent hate group that specializes in stirring up religious bigotry against innocent people.

Spencer poses a clear and present threat to religious liberty, and his hateful rhetoric makes a mockery of the values that most Americans cherish.

In a recent conference in Tennessee, attended by law enforcement because of escalating hate crimes in the area, Geller and Spencer's SIOA followers cheered at the mention of a mosque that was burned down.

Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League correctly writes that Spencer and Geller promote "a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the pretext of fighting terrorism."

He compared it to the anti-Semitism that became fashionable a century ago in Europe, beliefs that led to the Holocaust, history's greatest crime, and reduced Europe to rubble.

To defeat terrorism, America needs allies -- indeed, the best intelligence against religiously motivated terrorism invariably comes from America's frontline friends in Muslim-majority countries.

By blaming all Muslims rather than the minority who are terrorists, hate-mongers like Spencer would deprive us of our best partners.

Religious bigotry is bad for everybody. When hate-mongers stir up bigotry in a community, Sikhs -- and other groups wearing religiously mandated clothing -- often become targets of hate crimes.

South Asians, even Latinos, report violent encounters by people insisting they are "terrorists." When will we learn how dangerous and irresponsible stirring up religious hatred is to people in all faith communities?

Religious liberty isn't just Fourth of July rhetoric; it's the very basis of the American way of life. That means freedom isn't just for your religion, or mine -- it's for everybody.

I'm thrilled that Napa County is home to Christians, Jews, Punjabi-speaking Sikhs, atheists, Muslims, Unitarians, even a Wiccan or two. The genius of religious freedom is that no single group will ever be strong enough to inhibit or control the others.

It's smart, it's simple and it works; but religious liberty must be defended by patriots willing to stand up to hate-mongers. (Read the full article)

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