In the wake of the murderous Manchester bombers, there are increasing calls for investigation of the religious activities of the plotters, and the teachings of the imams in various mosques they attended. Compounding the angst is the fact that once again the bomber was on the radar of the authorities, but they "didn't do anything to stop them".
An article on WND.com today tells the tale of two Minnesota muslim men who were arrested recently with ammunition, rifles, "electronic bomb making materials", and a grenade in the trunk of their car, and the outrage that one of them has already been released. The other is being held on federal weapons charges. The gist of the article is that we should be asking them about their religious beliefs and the preaching they have been listening to at their mosque. It also talks about the islamic enclaves that have formed in many places around the world (this location in Minnesota being one of them), and the fact that Sharia law is the defacto law in these areas, rather than the laws of the localities and countries that contain these enclaves.
Finally, I am reminded of the court battle a few years back where the Mayor of Houston, Texas was embroiled in a battle with several area pastors over a local gay-rights ordinance and the effort to repeal it. The Mayor, Annise Parker, subpoenaed sermons and other materials from these pastors, allegedly to investigate any disparaging comments they may have made about homosexuals, gay marriage, or other topics the mayor didn't want them preaching about. This act by the Mayor was roundly criticized on First Amendment grounds, and ultimately the courts rejected the Mayor's actions.
These kinds of things are testing the boundaries of the First Amendment, and I'm honestly troubled by the knee-jerk reactions of most of the comments I have seen toward increasing the reach and power of the security state even into religious matters.
So here is the question: if we are outraged by Annise Parker's actions, shouldn't we also be outraged by the calls to investigate imams, if we want to be consistent? Isn't that the state trampling on the religious freedoms of the muslims? Aren't we all equal before the law?
And if the answer to this question is no - we're going to investigate the imams and mosques because one or two or some of their attendees killed a bunch of people while chanting an islamic text - then we have just given the state jurisdiction over the things that are said in any church or synagogue or temple in addition to the mosques in question. And if the state doesn't like that fact that a particular religious assembly speaks out against gay marriage or school prayer or any other topic that society has deemed "wrong", then we're going to investigate you and possibly shut you down because you don't agree with "us".
And yes, I understand that this sort of thing could happen regardless of which side of the political spectrum the Mayor/Governor/Attorney General/etc. comes from. Power is a seductress, and those who can stand up to the seduction are rarer and rarer.
So, in our haste to root out the evil among us, let's not give politicians the right to govern our religious speech at some (near) future time. Because we all know what happens when politicians get involved in things like this, and it isn't pretty.