Conway, Paul embrace the demagogy

It should surprise no one that the usual rabble-rousers of the right have raised a ruckus over plans to build a Muslim community center and mosque a couple of blocks from Ground Zero in New York City. That's what the Sarah Palins and Glenn Becks of the world do — seize every opportunity to spew senseless demagogy that incites fears, fans the flames of hatred and spreads divisiveness across America's political landscape. It's how they feed their insatiable egos.

What disappoints, though, is the fraidy-cat stance the two men who want to be the next U.S. senator from Kentucky have taken on the mosque plans.

"While this is a local matter that should be decided by the people of New York, Dr. Paul does not support a mosque being built two blocks from Ground Zero," a spokesman for Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul said.

Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic nominee, expressed a similar sentiment. "I think we have to keep the families of the victims of 9/11 foremost in our minds," he told the Knox County Times-Tribune, "and because of that I would prefer to see it located elsewhere."

Paul's objection to building a mosque near Ground Zero represents pure hypocrisy, coming from a supposed libertarian who has elevated "property rights" to near-sacred status when it comes to civil rights, people with disabilities and the mountaintop removal mining that defiles the landscape and pollutes the waters of Kentucky.

Despite Paul's hypocrisy, Conway disappoints more. After all, as attorney general, he has taken an oath to uphold both the U.S. Constitution and its Kentucky counterpart. What part of those two documents' clear language on the subject of religious freedom does he not understand?

For that is the real issue involved in the Ground Zero mosque controversy: religious freedom. And the same issue is at the heart of other protests against planned mosques around the country, including one in Mayfield in Western Kentucky and another in Florence in Northern Kentucky.

Yes, Muslim terrorists were at the controls of planes that took down the twin towers of the World Trade Center on 9/11. But just as we didn't typecast everyone named McVeigh after the Oklahoma City bombing, we must not typecast all Muslims post-9/11. But that is what the rabble-rousers want us to do.

If a Christian or Jewish congregation were proposing a place of worship two blocks from Ground Zero, the only discussion would be about compliance with planning and zoning laws. This discussion has gone beyond those limits only because Muslims are involved.

Innocent Muslims were killed on 9/11, along with the innocent members of other faiths and innocent people of no faith. As long as they own the property and comply with all the laws and regulations, innocent Muslims have a right to worship within a couple of blocks of Ground Zero — or in Murray and Florence. To deny them that right is to diminish freedom of religion for all of us.

And when our response to a terrorist attack includes diminishing our own freedoms, we've let the bad guys win. Apparently, that's OK with Rand Paul and Jack Conway.