American History Articles Featured History Politics
Thomas Jefferson and the Ground Zero Mosque
Aug 16, 2010
100
, , , , , , , ,

President Obama stepped into it over the weekend. Speaking Friday August 13, 2010, at a White House dinner to honor Ramadan, the President told his audience, “Muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country,” an obvious reference to the controversy surrounding the Ground Zero mosque. On Saturday, while spending the day in the Gulf, the president attempted to clarify his earlier remarks: “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.”

Utah’s attempts at statehood were held up over the religious practice of polygamy. It wasn’t until Utah agreed to include in its constitution a ban on polygamy that the territory was considered for statehood. Statehood was officially granted on January 4, 1896.

Prior to Utah’s statehood, the Supreme Court had ruled that “Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries”(1) and “the spread and practice of polygamy is . . . . contrary to the spirit of Christianity and of the civilization which Christianity has produced in the Western world.”(2) So contrary to President Obama, it’s not true that all people have “the right to practice their religion.” The First Amendment does not give unlimited freedom to individuals or groups who act in the name of religion, especially when that religion’s goal is the domination of the world or even a part of it by force.

On a side note, Judge Vaughn Walker, in the Proposition 8 decision, is arguing that the more than seven million people who voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman have no standing in their appeal of the case because they could not prove how homosexual marriage harms them.(3) The same argument could be made over bigamy and polygamy since no one is forced into multiple marriages and thereby can’t suffer harm by the polygamous practices of others. The Supreme Court in 1890 saw great societal harm in the religious practice of polygamy. In my estimation, the same argument can be made for Islam. Consider that German authorities “have closed a Hamburg mosque used by the Sept. 11 attackers as a meeting place before they moved to the United States. A statement by Hamburg officials says the Taiba mosque was shut down and its cultural association was banned” August 9, 2010.

The First Amendment begins: “Congress shall make no law. . . .” There is no prohibition on municipalities, counties, or states. Constitutionally, Congress, since it is supposed to be the only law-making national body, cannot make any law regarding religion that would affect the states. Cities, counties, and states can make determinations based on religion. An appeal to “our founding” will prove this to be true. Nearly all the state constitutions at the time had particular requirements dealing with religion over which the national government had no jurisdiction. If the states wanted the same, less, or more freedoms than found in the national constitution, the states had to provide for them in their constitutions. For example, here are the religious provisions in Alabama’s constitution:

That no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state; and that the civil rights, privileges, and capacities of any citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious principles.

Why include these words if the First Amendment applied to the states?

President Obama and other supporters of the Ground Zero Mosque appeal to our nation’s “founding,” in particular Thomas Jefferson. Here are some additional comments the President made on August 14 in reference to Jefferson:

And tonight, we are reminded that Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity. And Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been a part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan—making it the first known iftar(4) at the White House, more than 200 years ago.

First, Islam is not noted for its religious diversity. Christians cannot evangelize in Muslim countries. Churches are burned while police do nothing. Muslims who convert to another religion can be executed. Even the presence of the Bible is prohibited by our own military and the behest of Islamic officials when American soldiers are deployed in Muslim nations:

Bibles were confiscated and destroyed after Qatar-based Al Jazeer television showed soldiers at a Bible class on a base with a stack of Bibles translated into the local Pashto and Dari languages. The U.S. military forbids its members on active duty—including those based in places like Afghanistan—from trying to convert people to another religion. Reuters quotes Maj. Jennifer Willis at the Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, who said “I can now confirm that the Bibles shown on Al Jazeera’s clip were, in fact, collected by the chaplains and later destroyed. They were never distributed.”(5)

Second, President Obama’s favorable appeal to Jefferson is only part of the story. The Koran’s peace initiatives are Orwellian: “Submission to Islam is peace.” Peace is the absence of any religious or political opposition. This is the indisputable history of Islam as Paul Johnson writes:

Koranic teaching that the faith or “submission” can be, and in suitable circumstances must be, imposed by force, has never been ignored. On the contrary, the history of Islam from Arabia was followed by the rapid conquest of North Africa, the invasion and virtual conquest of Spain, and a thrust into France that carried the crescent to the gates of Paris. It took half a millennium or reconquest to expel the Moslems from Western Europe. The Crusades, far from being an outrageous prototype of Western imperialism, as is taught in most of our schools, were a mere episode in a struggle that has lasted 1,400 years and were one of the few occasions when Christians took the offensive to regain the “occupied territories” of the Holy Land.(6)

What did Jefferson learn from his study of the Koran? As early as 1786, Jefferson, who was serving as the ambassador to France, and John Adams, the Ambassador to Britain, met in London with Ambassador Abdrahaman, the Dey of Tripoli’s ambassador to Britain, in an attempt to negotiate a peace treaty based on Congress’ vote of funding. Peace would come at a price. If America wanted “temporary peace,” a one-year guarantee, it would cost $66,000 plus a 10% commission. “Everlasting peace” was a bargain at $160,000 plus the obligatory commission. This only applied to Tripoli. Other Muslim nations would also have to be paid. The amount came to $1.3 million. But there was no assurance that the treaties would be honored. In vain Jefferson and Adams tried to argue that America was not at war with Tripoli. In what way had the U.S provoked the Muslims, they asked? Ambassador Abdrahaman went on to explain “the finer points of Islamic jihad” to the Koranically challenged Jefferson and Adams. In a letter to John Jay, Jefferson wrote the following:

The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.(7)

Abdrahaman was paraphrasing the Koran’s “rules of engagement” found in the 47 Surah: “Whenever you encounter the ones who disbelieve [during wartime], seize them by their necks until once you have subdued them, then tie them up as prisoners, either in order to release them later on, or also to ask for ransom, until war lays down her burdens.” Unless a nation submitted to an Islamic nation, whether it was the aggressor or not, that nation was by definition at war with Islam. Jihad means “to submit.” A non-aggressing nation is still at war with Islam as long as it hasn’t embraced Islam. Islam’s goal is to conquer the world, either by the submission of one’s will or by Allah’s sword.(8)

When President Jefferson refused to increase the tribute demanded by the Islamists, Tripoli declared war on the United States. A United States navy squadron, under Commander Edward Preble, blockaded Tripoli from 1803 to 1805. After rebel soldiers from Tripoli, led by United States Marines, captured the city of Derna, the Pasha of Tripoli signed a treaty promising to exact no more tribute.

President Obama is not the first person who has tried to whitewash Islam’s history with America. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Muslim, took his constitutional oath on Jefferson’s copy of the Koran. How ironic given Jefferson’s disdain for Islam’s principles. There’s a reason the “Marines’ Hymn” begins with these words:

From the Halls of Montezuma,

to the shores of Tripoli.

The line “To the shores of Tripoli” refers to the First Barbary War, specifically the Battle of Derne in 1805. Jefferson, embroiled in a war with Islamic terrorists in his day, commented, “Too long, for the honor of nations, have those Barbarians been suffered [permitted] to trample on the sacred faith of treaties, on the rights and laws of human nature!”(9) Little has changed since Jefferson’s day. The Muslims of the Ground Zero Mosque will say one thing and mean another.Endnotes:

  1. Davis v. Beason, 133 U. S. 333, 341-344, 348 n. (1890).()
  2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. United States 136 U.S. 1, 49 (1890).()
  3. The seven million people have standing because their votes were nullified by a single judge. In addition, the process of amending the California constitution is by referendum: “A proposed amendment or revision shall be submitted to the electors and if approved by a majority of votes thereon takes effect the day after the election unless the measure provides otherwise” (Art. 18, sec. 4). This, too, was violated by a single judge’s poorly argued decision.()
  4. “Iftar (Arabic: إفطار‎), refers to the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan.”()
  5. Fred Jackson, “U.S. military destroys soldier’s Bibles,” OneNewsNow (May 5, 2009).()
  6. Paul Johnson, “‘Relentlessly and Thoroughly’: The Only Way to Respond,” National Review (October 15, 2001).()
  7. Quoted in Joseph Wheelan, Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror, 1801–1805 (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003), 40–41.()
  8. Robert Spencer, The Truth about Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2006) and Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2005).()
  9. Thomas Jefferson, congratulatory letter to Lt. Andrew Sterett (1760–1807). Quoted in Joseph Wheelan, Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror, 1801–1805 (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003), 102.()
Print Friendly

About author

Gary DeMar

Gary is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and earned his M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in 1979. He is the author of countless essays, news articles, and more than 27 book titles, His most recent book is Exposing the Real Last Days Scoffers. Gary lives in Marietta, Georgia, with his wife, Carol. They have two married sons and four grandchildren, Gary and Carol are members of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA).

Related items

You may (or may not) like these as well

Wright sermon

Back when sermons were not off-limits. . . .

Read more
open book

Hamfisted on Houston or not?: A response to Tim Bayly

Read more
A rainbow over a church in the Washington D.C. area

Is Houston demanding oversight of pastors’ sermons? No.

Read more