Mayor Bloomberg's speech is a courageous and correct response of civil authority to questions concerning the life of religious communities in the city. Whether they benefit the whole community is a question of existing laws encouraging the freedom of religious beliefs while tightly limiting the practice of religious beliefs, whenever such behavior is prohibited by existing civil and criminal law. For reason of such laws polygamy is not tolerated; nor can parents prevent girls from getting a broad education to meet common public standards; nor can parents physically punish their teenage children. Such views are punishable, even when they are part of a person's deep religious conviction.
We are citizens in a society confident of the open access to truth, reason and reality resulting from Christian and Jewish insights about God, Man and the real world. That is our common playing field on which we embrace a perspective of tolerance towards those who may hold mistaken religious views. We see religion as something that must be subject to the same laws of reason, civil society and evidence as other points of view, deeply held convictions and faiths.
Our response as Christians to the plans for a mosque near the site of the tragedy of 9/11 should not reflect the outlook of fear, intolerance and totalitarian insistence which is held by those who perpetrated 9/11 and similar acts afterwards in the name of their religious convictions. There is no need to stoop to their level of fear, anger and resentment. We do not fear people's quest for truth, and we believe in the eventual persuasive corrective from reality to any falsely assumed religious certainties.
Note: Udo Middelmann has often written on Islam and Christianity based on his experiences with those religions in different parts of the world. Growing up, his father's work with UNICEF took the family to Beirut, Lebanon and New York City. Middleman's diverse career experiences also include fifteen years as an associate pastor in Switzerland and four years as the education program director for the International Institute for Relief and Development of Food for the Hungry in Geneva, Switzerland.
Middelmann holds a law degree from Freiburg University and a theology degree from Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO, USA). For the last nineteen years, he has been the president of the Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation and divides his time between Switzerland and New York. Middelmann is a prolific essayist and published the books Pro-Existence, The Market-Driven Church and The Innocence of God.
We have asked religious leaders with congregations or church affiliates near Ground Zero to respond to Mayor Bloomberg's speeches on religion and religious freedom in the city and the mosque controversies. OpEds do not necessarily reflect the views of A Journey .