Islam and the emerging religious threat to our Constitution.
Indeed they do. And why do they oppose it? Look at the poll questions they were answering:
1) How closely have you followed the news about a proposed Muslim Community Center to be constructed two blocks from ground zero, the former location of the World Trade Center?
2) Supporters of the proposed community center, known as the Cordoba House, say it would demonstrate the presence of moderate Muslims in New York as well as serve as a monument to religious tolerance. Opponents say the project is an offense to the memory of those killed in the attacks on 9/11 and displays unacceptable insensitivity. Do you tend to agree with the supporters, the opponents or do you think they both have a legitimate position?
3) Do you support or oppose the proposal to build the Cordoba House, a 15 story Muslim Cultural Center in lower Manhattan 2 blocks from the site of the World Trade Center?
The questions say nothing about who's running or funding the project. They say it's being presented as a way to "demonstrate the presence of moderate Muslims in New York" and "serve as a monument to religious tolerance." The only contrary argument offered is that it's "an offense to the memory of those killed in the attacks on 9/11 and displays unacceptable insensitivity." Given the choice between these two arguments, respondents side with the project's opponents by a margin of 38 to 21 percent. And when they're told that it'll be 15 stories tall and two blocks from Ground Zero, they overwhelmingly oppose it.
This is the real argument behind the campaign against the New York community center: It's Muslim, it's big, and it's too close to where a bunch of Muslims killed a bunch of us.
Mosques, like churches, may deserve scrutiny on a case-by-case basis. It's possible to raise questions about the people running and funding the New York project without rejecting a mosque near Ground Zero per se. As far as I can tell, this is the position of Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Rick Lazio, the former Republican congressman running for governor of New York. But it isn't Gingrich's position. Gingrich's position is that no mosque should be built near Ground Zero, period.
It's particularly rich to see Gingrich and Tyler accuse the imam behind the project, Faisal Abdul Rauf, of radicalism, belligerence, and fomenting terrorism. Watch the video of Rauf at a press conference two months ago. In it, he declares: "We condemn terrorism. We recognize it exists within our faith community. But we're committed to eradicate it." A whole wing of Rauf's Web site is dedicated to "Women's Empowerment," though that hasn't stopped Gingrich from associating him with "stoning women." Rauf's failure to condemn Hamas or Hezbollah is a symptom of timidity, not belligerence. His exact statement on that topic was: "I am a peace builder. I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary or as an enemy." At worst, these are the words of a wimp, not a warmonger.
The true religious warrior in this fight is Gingrich. Look at the title of his new book: To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine. In it, he depicts a mortal struggle between the foreign "culture of secularism" and the deeply American "culture of religion." He ridicules liberals for opposing school prayer and a cross on public land. He says the Declaration of Independence implies that "man must obey an order of justice God Himself has instituted." On the Web site of their organization, Renewing American Leadership, Gingrich and Tyler proclaim that their mission is "to preserve America's Judeo-Christian heritage." And in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute a week ago, Gingrich proudly quoted FDR's wartime address equating democracy with Christianity.
If the prospect of losing our Constitution to religious government frightens you, don't worry about the tiny Muslim-American minority. Worry about the anti-mosque majority Gingrich is working to mobilize. Like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. William Saletan's latest short takes on the news, via Twitter:
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of mosque protesters by Michael Nagle/Getty Images.