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Pearce brings mosque politics to NM

Steve Pearce, left, and Harry Teague (Photos by Heath Haussamen)

With Republicans trying to make a planned mosque near Ground Zero a wedge issue in contested races across the nation, Steve Pearce challenged U.S. Rep. Harry Teague on Monday to take a stand on the controversial topic. While the rhetoric is different, it turns out the two essentially agree on the issue.

Both acknowledge that those who want to build the Islamic center near Ground Zero have a right to do so, but Pearce said it should be built somewhere else, and Teague said he wishes they’d build it somewhere else.

“While this issue is not a matter of law, it is a deeply personal issue to so many Americans, particularly those who lost someone on that terrible day,” the Republican Pearce said in a news release. “The fact that they may have a legal right to build something does not make it the right thing to do.”

Teague, the Democrat in the race, agreed.

“It seems that some people want the Constitution to apply only when it’s convenient, but we don’t get to decide when we follow the Constitution on a case-by-case basis,” he said in a prepared statement. “I know that this is a very sensitive issue to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 and to the entire nation. Personally, I wish they’d build it somewhere else in New York City, but that’s not a decision we get to make from down here in New Mexico.”

Teague’s campaign had harsh words for Pearce.

“It isn’t a surprise to anyone that Congressman Pearce is just playing partisan politics as usual,” spokeswoman Jessica Borchert said. “But this campaign isn’t about what’s happening in New York City. It’s about issues being driven by the people of New Mexico’s Second Congressional District. Maybe if Congressman Pearce took the time to travel the district and talk to people he’d understand what some of those issues are.”

Want to know what the rest of the New Mexico delegation, and the other Republicans running for U.S. House seats, think about this issue? The Albuquerque Journal has that story.

Teague accuses Pearce of waffling on the First Amendment


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Teague is in a tough re-election battle against Pearce, his predecessor in Congress who voluntarily gave up the seat in 2008 to run unsuccessfully for Senate. As I’ve written, some believe Teague has avoided taking definite stances on some issues, instead trying to have it both ways.

But Teague took a strong stance on Monday on the right of those who want to build a mosque near Ground Zero to do it. And his campaign hammered Pearce for what it said was waffling on the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

President Barack Obama has defended the legal right of Muslims to build a mosque near Ground Zero, but he has not said whether he believes the mosque should be built there. Still, some have interpreted his comments as an endorsement, and Pearce seized on that in his news release.

“It is disappointing that President Obama has endorsed building a mosque near Ground Zero,” Pearce said. “The American people do not support this position and we should not be so insensitive to memory of those who lost their lives on that tragic day.”

He called on Teague to “join me in calling on the president to reconsider his position and state clearly that this location is an ill-chosen one and does not honor the memory of those who died.”

Teague, in response, pointed to this statement from Pearce’s Web site:

“The Constitution is the single most important document in our civil lives… Politicians in Washington have gotten comfortable bending and twisting the Constitution to advance their political agendas. We need to return to the concepts and wisdom that our forefathers bestowed upon us more than 200 years ago. The Constitution is our guardian as it… protects our right to prayer and against the government halting expressions of faith.”

Borchert said Pearce is now showing his lack of independence.

“He defends the Constitution on his website,” she said, “but when the (National Republican Congressional Committee) says jump, Congressman Pearce abandons his position and asks, ‘How high?’ Even Politico is reporting that this is just more political strategy orchestrated by the national Republican Party in Washington – and, apparently, Congressman Pearce is more than happy to follow the leader.”

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21 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. James Madison said it best about the dangers of religious groups interfering with the civil government: “What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.” – “A Memorial and Remonstrance”, 1785.

    It is a true danger today! Religious intolerance is raising its hideous and ugly head in America.
    .

  2. re: greenchili

    “So when people are defending islam, I view them as either ignorant or women haters. Note that I did NOT capitalize muslim and islam because this religion generally disrespects my Christian religious beliefs…….why should I respect theirs?”

    In regards to Islam’s general disrespect of Christianity, polls show the following percentages of respondents with a favorable view of Christianity:

    French Muslims: 91%
    Spanish Muslims: 82%
    British Muslims: 71%
    German Muslims: 69%
    Indonesian Muslims: 64%
    Jordanian Muslims: 61%
    Egyptian Muslims: 27%:
    Turkish Muslim: 16%

    In the USA, the favorable rating for Muslims is 54%.

    Now, I am not sure you can call that “Islam’s” disrespect of Christianity, but you can certainly say that some people who are Muslim disrespect Christianity (or at least hold an unfavorable view of it), and they are minorities in most of the communities I listed above.

    Here you go: http://pewglobal.org/2006/06/22/the-great-divide-how-westerners-and-muslims-view-each-other/2/

  3. @Doris V
    This mosque issue, believe it or not, is a National issue as evidenced by the poll numbers. Last time I checked, NM is part of the USA.

    @Rorschach
    Your arguments are weak as you “claim to want” evidence of islam being an evil religion. I totally disagee with your points on the basis of the books I’ve read written by muslims who converted to Christianity.

    IF you want enlightment, read GOD’S WAR ON TERROR by Walid Shoebat and Joel Richardson and ANTICHRIST Islam’s awaited Messiah by Joel Richardson. In addition, do some research on http://www.thereligionofpeace.com for examples of sharia law.

    A non-practicing Jew that converted to Christianity wrote EPICENTER Why The Current Rumblings In The Middle East Will Change Your Future. The author’s name is Joel Rosenberg.

    The Religion of Peace website had several testimonies from muslims who left islam. Some of the writers became atheists, some Christians, and some were just agnostics. I did not have time to read all of the testimonies so I chose to read some of the ones written by women based on my knowledge of the abuse they receive in their islam world. These women have confirmed the truth that they have no freedom in the Middle East and that they are nothing more than second class citizens.

    So when people are defending islam, I view them as either ignorant or women haters. Note that I did NOT capitalize muslim and islam because this religion generally disrespects my Christian religious beliefs…….why should I respect theirs?

  4. On the question of whether or not the mosque should be built, it is a dodge to state that the builders have a right to build it. Of course they have a right to build it. It is a massively “duh” statement to note that we have freedom of religion in this country. Declaring so is not a strong stand.

    I believe they have a right to build it, and I also believe we should individually tolerate its construction. Religious tolerance is important to our civic and social health, and I think we gain more as a society by greeting the mosque’s construction with a collective shrug. Engendering an atmosphere of tolerance is valuable, especially in situations like this when tolerance will be tested. That is because it is easy to be tolerant when tolerance isn’t put to the test, making tolerance meaningless unless we are also tolerant even when it is tempting to not be.
    - – -

    In response to the poster that says that the exercise of rights equates to rights, that is incorrect. We might envision ourselves supporting freedom of speech while also protesting a planned book burning.

    - – -

    In response to wedum59, a quick heads-up on the Crusades: they were launched (ostensibly) to recapture lands that had once been Christian. If we’re going to back to the Crusades to insist that Christians “started it,” then we have to consider that the Muslims “started it” because they conquered Christian Egypt, Christian Anatolia, Christian North Africa, Christian Spain, Christian Greece, etc, etc. Some of those places represented the core of ancient Christianity, with some very important bishoprics. The Crusades, in the full context of the Christian-Muslim contest, were a counterstrike that, had they been successful, would have conquered those lands back. Not that it proves anything to take either stand, but my history background compelled me to say something. :)

  5. This is not a NM issue. We would not want NY meddling in our affairs. Let’s not meddle in their affairs. It is time for healing and not squabbling. All religions have been guilty of violence and intolerance. After all humans make up religious groups. There is plenty of blame to go around. “Love” seems to be forgotten by all. Build the community center. As I read somewhere, better than strip clubs and adult book stores that are in that area.

  6. let’s see: Islam is a “a violent faith and we, as Americans should not be forced to wait in fear to respect or tolerate such a threat”. Really ksparks? Back this statement up with fact please, don’t just make arguments heard on Rush Limbaugh as fact. Estimate on the number of Muslims in the United States range from 1.3 million to 7 million, though the US News and World Report estimates slightly over 5 million. how many of those people commit acts of violence based on their religion?

    The nation of Turkey has over 77 million people. The CIA World Factbook estimates that 99.8% of them are Muslims… and yet they are our ally in NATO. In fact, our US basketball team is going to play in the World Championships in Istanbul later in the month. Should we refute our alliance with them and boycott the games because of their refusal to get rid of such a violent faith?

    MovingAlong makes four argument. Let’s refute those shall we?

    “1) Islam is the most intolerant religion of today. They do not/will not accept the existence of Christianity/judaism for archaic reason. How many churches/synagogues exist in the Middle East?”

    Oh really, back up those remarks? Show me data on how nations like Indonesia (with the largest muslim population in the world) discriminates against other religions. Maybe some cultures in the middle east have issues, but does that translate in to an overall statement That’s like saying the state of Mississippi should represent all of America.

    “2) It is widely accepted that the radicals in Islam are targeting Israel for annilhilation. They refuse to accept the historical differences and make no attempt to live side by side.”

    Sure, radicals of all religions are crazy. That’s why they are called radicals. Radical American Christians want to kill abortion doctors. Radical Christians in Uganda want to put gays to death. so should all Christians be grouped in to that category? And remember, the nations of Jordan (92% Muslim) and Egypt (90% Muslim) have peace treaties with Israel and do recognize their right to exist. No, the situation is not perfect, but rash generalizations don’t help

    “3) Moderate (not the extreme) Muslims do little if anything to openly condemn their extremist counterparts.”

    Maybe you are right here, but there have been efforts that *gasp* even Fox News reports about: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,131580,00.html.

    “4) The culture is archaic and unyielding in thought and process. Women are not equal, punishments are inhumane and violence is fostered as well as recruited to satisfy their cause. The Sharia Law is a return to the Dark Ages.”

    Indonesia had a women on their ballot on 2009 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Indonesia2009PresElectBallotPaper.png). Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002 (we still have it right?). As for violence being fostered, that is done everywhere by radicals, which is why they are called so.

    To Pearce and the National Republicans on this issues: you are hypocrites. You say that you want to defend the Constitution and keep the Federal Government out of our lives, yet you would agree that this Mosque shouldn’t be allowed to open for no reason other than that they are Muslim. You claim to support private property rights, yet would once again impose a big brother mentality on American property owners. You say it is ok for the 10 commandments to be posted in government buildings, but that a privately owned religious facility can’t be built.

    This is irrational, illogical, and inconsistent. And I hate the whole “Party of Fear” thing that Democrats throw at Republicans, but in this case it is absolutely true. You are trying to play on fear and anger, not discussion and truth, to win an election.

    Shame, shame, shame.

  7. Candidates Pearce and Teague: if you believe that you can have a right without its exercise, tell your constituents that they have the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment but should not bear them. Obviously, there is no right without its exercise. Urging people not to exercise a right is advocating an infringement of that right.

    By analogy, it is nonsense to argue that, although Muslims have the right of freedom of religion to build an Islamic community center with top-story prayer rooms near Ground Zero, they are wrong to exercise that right at the selected site.

    Your shared position on this issue is a political ploy which cheapens the Constitution and calls into question your allegiance to the fundamental values of the country. What you hope will be divisive in your favor is destructive of the fabric of our nation.

  8. I just did a search for mosques in New York City, and got 47 results for NYC and the surrounding area. Several are listings for cultural centers, learning centers, and societies. So do the Republicans want all of them to be shut down? Do they want to repeal the First Amendment and ban all mosques in our entire country? Or they just trying to use their usual cheap tricks to create a “Hot Button,” or more accurately a “Hate Button” issue to divide our country and win a few votes?

    Just as not all Muslims are terrorists, not all Republicans embrace these cheap trick tactics. I recommend the article “Moved by a Crescent,” written by Maureen Dowd (10-21-2008) about former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s “Meet the Press” interview.

  9. The issue of violence relates to almost every religion, but we are living in today’s world and must accept certain facts:
    1) Islam is the most intolerant religion of today. They do not/will not accept the existence of Christianity/judaism for archaic reason. How many churches/synagogues exist in the Middle East?
    2) It is widely accepted that the radicals in Islam are targeting Israel for annilhilation. They refuse to accept the historical differences and make no attempt to live side by side.
    3) Moderate (not the extreme) Muslims do little if anything to openly condemn their extremist counterparts.
    4) The culture is archaic and unyielding in thought and process. Women are not equal, punishments are inhumane and violence is fostered as well as recruited to satisfy their cause. The Sharia Law is a return to the Dark Ages.

    Unless there are some changes by Muslim Leaders, their brutal road of attack and kill will continue. Every attempt needs to be made to influence and moderate the radical extremist wings of Islam.

  10. According to Jon Stewart, the proposed Islamic cultural center is planned for a building that used to be a Brulington coat factory outlet. And it is three blocks from Ground Zero.

    Historically speaking, the Christians attacked the Muslims first, in the “Crusades.” The Muslims have never forgotten that, I bet.

  11. Heath I can respect that but, there is no string of constant violent attacks brought about because our Bible advocates such perpetual violence as in the Koran. These violent attacks have been constant and perpetual from the Muslims for hundreds of years. I’ll admit, there are kooks and extremists in all faiths, including Christianity, Jim Jones, David Koresh, etc. but, Islam has a persistent and constant threat of violence toward any they deem to be non-believers. Theirs is a violent faith and we, as Americans should not be forced to wait in fear to respect or tolerate such a threat.

  12. ksparks, I published your last comment for discussion, but I also want to point out that, contrary to what you said, you don’t have to go back centuries to find “acts of violence from Christianity.”

    One example: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/mayweb-only/5-3-32.0.html

  13. The Books of Samuel are from the Old Testament and are missing the non-violent teachings of Jesus Christ, i.e. “…turn the other cheek…” Matthew 5:39; “Love your enemies…” Matthew 5:44; and “Love one another as I have loved you…” John 13:34-35. These are the most recent teachings of the Bible hence, according to the Islamic scholars, would be held to as those that came last. It is therefore, the reverse of the scriptures in the Koran because it stresses peace and love. Nowhere in the New Testament does nor any of His disciples call for a jihad or anything like it. Besides, you had to go back centuries to find acts of violence from Christianity. We only have to go back a few months, if that, to find violent incidents brought about by Muslims. This is what makes Islam a bona fide and proven violent faith for Americans today.

  14. Mr. Pearce and others condemn all Muslims for the actions of a few Muslim terrorists. New Mexico has seven Mosques. Mr. Pearce has shown his total insensitivity to the peaceful Muslim population in New Mexico. There are over two thousand Muslims in Albuquerque alone. Here is the website of Islamic Center of New Mexico.

    https://www.islamnm.org/?q=node/2

    Shame on you – Mr. Pearce and others who revile all Muslims. The Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves at the denial of religious freedom – a cornerstone of our Republic.

  15. Our Bible is a bit violent. Consider the Book of 1 Samuel, when God instructs King Saul to attack the Amalekites: “And utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them,” God says through the prophet Samuel. “But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

    During the Crusades in the Middle Ages, the Catholic popes declared the Muslims Amalekites. In the great religious wars in the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries, Protestants and Catholics each believed the other side were the Amalekites and should be utterly destroyed.

    Does this make Christianity a “bona fide violent faith”?

  16. We all understand the constitution and and what it means.

    Obviously, NOT, or you wouldn’t follow that statement with the following:

    They have every right to build a house of worship. But when public consensus says no, majority should rule, at least I thought it did.

    Just because bigotry and jingoism is the most morally easy (aka, lazy) way to make decisions about things doesn’t mean you get to vote on whether the Bill of Rights applies to your Target Hated Group du jour.

  17. Ironically persecutions had begun in New England against the Baptists in 1635. In fact The General Court of the English colony, passed a law for the Suppression of the Baptists. The law was as follows:

    “For as much as experience hath plentifully and often proved, that since the first rising of the Anabaptists, about one hundred years since, they have been the incendiaries of the commonwealths, and the infectors of persons in main matters of religion, and the troublers of churches in all places when they have been, and that they who have held the baptizing of infants unlawful, have usually held other errors or heresies together therewith, though they have (as other heretics use to do) concealed the same till they spied out a fit advantage and opportunity to vent them, by way of question or scruple; and whereas divers of this kind have since our coming into New England appeared amongst ourselves, some whereof (as others before them) denied the ordinance of magistracy, and the lawfulness of making war, and others the lawfulness of magistrates, and their inspection into any breach of the first table; which opinions, if they should be connived at by us, are like to be increased amongst us, and so must necessarily bring guilt upon us, Infection and trouble to the churches, and hazard to the whole commonwealth; it is ordered and agreed, that if any person or persons, within this jurisdiction, shall either openly condemn or oppose the baptizing of infants, or go about secretly to seduce others from the approbation or use thereof, or shall purposely depart the congregation at the ministration of the ordinance, or shall deny the ordinance of magistracy, or their lawful right and authority to make war, or to punish the outward breaches of the first table, and shall appear to the court willfully and obstinately to continue therein after due time and means of conviction, every such person or persons shall be sentenced to banishment (Backus, History of the Baptists In New England, I. pp. 359, 860)”

    So voters should decide if we should have freedom of religion like in our early colonial history? Is this what we want for America? If that is the case the Baptists like Mr. Pearce would have been banished a long time ago for their religious beliefs, and their churches closed. We need to stop intolerance.

  18. The Supreme Court of the United States in 1879 held in Reynaolds v. Untied States 98 U.S. 145, that while “Congress cannot prohibit the free exercise…” of religious practices, the right to free exercise of religion is NOT absolute. This has been a consistent SCOTUS opinion from 1879 forward. Although the exercise of religion is one’s own right to practice, breaking laws and following beliefs contrary to law can be, and is, prohibited. If one’s religion was vampirism, the First Amendment would guarrantee the protection of the belief but, not the practice thereof. Hence, the Koran consistently advocates violence toward non-Muslims. “There are both verses of peace and tolerance and violence toward non-Muslims but, Islamic theologians and scholars state that when you have conflicting verses in the Koran, you must go with and upon those verses revelaed last because, that cancels out what was revealed before. Fact is, the violent verses were revealed later thus, they cancel out the peaceful ones.” Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West, by Robert Spencer.

    In light of the facts that Muslims have been directly responsible for SEVERAL attempts and successful violent attacks in the vicinity of the World Trade Centers (now Ground Zero), their practice of such violent religion is therefore prohibited under federal law. This is the lawsuit that should be filed in Federal Court to get an injunction from the building of a place of worship for a historically and bona fide violent faith.

  19. The voters care about this indeed! Last time I checked, over 60% of voters oppose the mosque.

    We all understand the constitution and and what it means. They have every right to build a house of worship. But when public consensus says no, majority should rule, at least I thought it did. Voters that banned gay marriage in California were told their voice didn’t matter by an activist judge.

    Heinrich is scared too. He failed to issue a statement on this. Failed again. This is absolutely ridiculous, and he needs to stop dodging controversial issues like Teague.

  20. Mr. Pearce, a Baptist – I hope he has heard of freedom of religion and tolerance of other religions. His remarks fuel bigotry. One Gainesville, Florida church is having an “International Burn the Koran Day” on 9/11. Many Muslims who worked in the Twin Towers died in the 9/11 disaster. We condemn all Muslims for the actions of few Muslim terrorists.

    Let’s look at the site of Islamic prayer center which is two blocks from the the World Center site. There is another Mosque four blocks from Ground Zero. The Muslims have been praying there since 1970. Right near Ground Zero are two strip clubs. I guess that is OK.

    How far are we to keep the Muslims from Ground Zero? Maybe Mr. Pearce could figure that out – three blocks? Maybe we can ban all Muslims from walking near the area. Or we can have a “Burning the Koran Day” at Ground Zero.

    I am appalled at that our politicians don’t believe that religious freedom is not a key value in our American society.

  21. http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2010/08/been_here_before_1.php#more?ref=fpblg

    “Been Here Before
    David Kurtz | August 16, 2010, 3:25PM

    TPM Reader DE says the “Ground Zero Mosque” issue is just another replay of Republicans doing to Democrats what Lucy does to Charlie Brown with the football:

    I can’t help but think that this whole mosque controversy is explicable in a lot simpler political terms than the explanations we have been seeing from pundits and commentators, i.e., that Republicans are promoting a clash of civilizations, shifting away from George W. Bush’s position on Islam, etc.

    Republicans ALWAYS run on symbolic issues. Their substantive positions are not popular. People don’t like tax cuts for the rich, they don’t like endless military commitments, they don’t like corporatism, they don’t like lax regulations, etc. So Republicans always pick some symbolic, unimportant issue and make it sound like it’s the most important thing in the world. This is nothing more than the flag factory, the swift boats, and Reverend Wright all over again.”

    The sad thing is, Harry Teague is too scared to call Pearce on his bullhocky, and redirect the conversation to the things the voters REALLY care about.

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