We all remember the historic day that FDR, while hosting a Shinto ceremony in the White House during WWII, reminded Americans that everyone had a right to worship as they chose. Right...?
Of course we don't remember that act of political suicide, because it never happened. No one in America would have dreamed of such a thing as we were engaged in a war with not just a people but a warped religious ideology that had brought flame and death to our home in an unprovoked attack.
Of course, in that day, no Japanese-American would have suggested they could, would, or should build a Shinto shrine a block or two from the smoking hulk of the U.S.S. Arizona even as divers sought remains of the dead aboard her. That would have been an unthinkable affront.
The Shinto religion held that the Emperor was a literal god on earth. No believer would dare doubt the Emperor, or his appointed minions. Under the Emperor, Japan had undertaken to assert what the Shinto martial cult had decreed was its destiny. They did it aggressively via a war of merciless expansion. It was much more than a religion; it was an integrated socio-political construct that operated according to its own norms. Those norms were at existential swords-point with Western norms.
During WWII, this was a known reality that shaped everything done by the U.S. and its allies, from the common combat soldier to the leaders of state. But that was before the modern cult of moral relativity gained a foot-hold in American life...before we began to loath our own virtue and see atrocity as a merely "another, equally valid truth".
In WWII, a Shinto follower of the Emperor who espoused the beliefs of the martial cult in Japan...regardless of his citizenship...would have been changed, tried and imprisoned. Sadly and shamefully, many loyal Japanese-Americans who did not follow the Emperor were put in concentration camps and their property taken. We were better than that then, and we are today.
In America today, we are confused. Do Muslim Americans have a right to build their mosques? Of course, and they do. Few would dream of denying them that right. To the extent that they have, they have been marginalized as they should.
But what of the Islamists...that martial, expansionist element of Islam that actively seeks...today...to destroy Western pluralism? Do they have a right to build, to preach, to recruit? Do they have a right to build the equivalent of a Shinto shrine on the Pearl Harbor water-front, even while the remains of the 9/11 dead are still being recovered? Our WWII generation would have been amazed at the question.
Most of America is still amazed...and angered...that anyone would pose that question. What angers them more is the inference or declaration that opposition to the Cordoba House is the result of bigotry against all Muslims. That, they know, is simply a lie, and they resent the lie. They are not confused about the propriety of the Cordoba House, or the intent of its promoters.