My understanding is that Newt Gingrich is correct about churches not being allowed in Saudi Arabia (I believe non-Muslims aren’t even allowed in Mecca’s city limits). I could be wrong about that, but I think it’s true. But, contrary to Gingrich, I do not see Saudi Arabia’s repressive and intolerant stance as a source of strength. I see it as a sign of weakness. Strength comes with the confidence in your ideas to allow other ideas to compete with them. The differing experiences of Europe and America with regard to state-sponsored religion and present-day observance should prove that religion prospers when coercion is removed and it suffers when people are compelled to believe. It’s frankly appalling to hear Gingrich say that we ought to adopt a policy of banning mosques that reflects Saudi Arabia’s policy of banning churches. I don’t know what part of the First Amendment that Gingrigh actually understands. Clearly he neither understands this part…

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

…nor has he any reverence for the importance that clause has had for the development and essential goodness of our country. You can’t make exceptions to the Constitution. You can’t say that you have this special magical radial location that is exempted from the 1st Amendment. I guess we’re back to the Treaty of Tripoli that was passed unanimously in 1797 by the U.S. Senate.

“As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

It passed unanimously, Newt. You dunderhead.

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