Palin, Gingrich, and their chorus of right-wing commentators have had four months to explain, without resort to group blame or religious discrimination, why no Muslim house of worship should be built near Ground Zero. They have yet to answer the question. That's why they keep talking about "sensitivity" and "provocation"—words that cloak the intellectual crudity behind the sentiment.
Eventually, it will dawn on them that the Muslims who want to swim, eat, and worship at a community center in Lower Manhattan really are different from the Muslims who flew planes into the World Trade Center. And maybe they'll figure out that the imam in Manhattan disagrees not just with the imam in Orlando, but with imams in Gaza and Pakistan, too. The manifest chaos of Christianity is an easy starting point for this kind of reflection. Jones is a fool and a hater, but he's his own man.
So is Fred Phelps. His Westboro Baptist Church, headquartered at godhatesfags.com, is now pledging to pick up where Jones left off, burning not just the Quran but the American flag [PDF] on 9/11. There will always be some angry crackpot ready to defile your flag, burn your scripture, or hijack your airliner. These crackpots don't speak for your religion or mine. They speak for themselves.
Yesterday in Iowa, Gingrich said the Quran-burning episode just shows that the United States "has some people who are outrageous, as every country does, and they don't represent the country." A wonderful lesson. If only it were true of Islam. Like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. William Saletan's latest short takes on the news, via Twitter: