Mormons blow it in recent Gallup poll on NYC Islamic Center

I’m familiar with the drawbacks of polls generally. But for some reason my familiarity doesn’t do much quell my disappointment when I see what I consider to be embarrassing poll results like these:

Muslims, Jews, other non-Christians and non-religious Americans are more likely to favor retaining the current location as originally conceived, or transforming the center into an interfaith institution. The majority of Catholics, Mormons, and, to a lesser degree, Protestants, believe the center should find another location.

The poll also asked about overall familiarity with the issue, and Mormons accounted themselves as the least of these. So the poll basically portrays Mormons saying “I haven’t actually heard a great deal about the circumstances, but go ahead and move your community center someplace else.”

When the story was hot in the news a few months ago I was saddened to see several Mormon friends or acquaintances voice opposition to the NYC Mosque/Community Center. They usually recognized the legal right of the builders, but opposed it on the grounds that it somehow hurts those affected by 9/11. The reason I’m sad is because I think members of the Church should be especially sensitive about this issue, given our own experiences regarding public opposition to our own buildings (some of which, by the way, are much more exclusive than community centers).

Aside from the poor poll results are a few great stories about Muslims and Mormons finding solidarity in the hubbub. (See here and here for instance.) But there seem to be many Mormons who do not feel much solidarity with Islam, nor sympathy for the plight of those trying to construct the Islamic Center in the face of opposition. Mormon political figures like Harry Reid and Mitt Romney wouldn’t stick out their necks.

I can understand how the proposed building would be offensive to those who incorrectly equate all of Islam with 9/11, or those who don’t believe any Muslims (especially American Muslims) were negatively impacted by 9/11. On the other hand, I think the the folks constructing the Center have done a pretty poor job on the PR side and have done little to help otherwise uninformed but open individuals understand their side of the situation, to try and get their message out there, to respond to some of the rhetoric being spread by anti-Islamists, to quell the fear or outrage, to try to spread understanding.

But my Mormon gut tells me that we ought to be supporting the project. A Facebook group called “Mormons Who Support a Mosque Near Ground Zero” has garnered 500 members. It would be even better if more Mormons sought to become acquainted with the proposal and plans, as well as with Islam itself, in order to make a better-informed decision as to whether or not the project deserves support. This is not to say that anyone in opposition is uninformed. But the reasons I have seen given by Mormons in discussions around the Web have been lacking in rigor, to say the least (comparisons to building a temple at Mountain Meadows seems to be among the more popular responses. This response is weak for more reasons than I care to delve into in the main body of the post, feel free to engage on that in the comments). How ironic would it be if Mormons and Catholics, two groups historically marginalized in the United States, should be among those more likely to oppose the construction of the Islamic Center near Ground Zero? Especially given their mutual praise of religious freedom regarding other topics?

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Parenthetically, I don’t recall if the Church released a statement on the mosque, but they did release a statement discouraging the burning of the Qur’an:

    http://beta-newsroom.lds.org/article/church-statement-on-the-burning-of-the-koran

  • http://www.todrobbins.com Tod Robbins

    I wish they would have surveyed me. I would’ve given them the what for.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    The wonders of polling selection!

  • http://www.todrobbins.com Tod Robbins

    In all likelihood survey companies now have political orientation on record via ChoicePoint, et al, that the polls are skewed for a reason. Maybe? Conspiracy Tod? Yes.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    But what sort of political advantage could be gained by showing that Catholics and Mormons are more opposed to the Center than say, Muslims?

  • http://www.todrobbins.com Tod Robbins

    I don’t know. I was merely pandering to Monday morning babbling insignificance. Strike it from the record Sir Hodges!

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    aw nuts

  • http://www.todrobbins.com Tod Robbins

    Can I just say this two-way banter has enriched my morning? Where is everyone else in this discussion anyhow?

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    I wouldn’t read much into this. These polls tell us little. Of course, I do no expect much from my co-religionists.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    Also, I would not read much into the presence and size of Facebook groups.

  • http://www.keepapitchinin.org Ardis E. Parshall

    Thanks, BHodges. Nothing to add, but I agree with everything you’ve said.

  • http://thegooddemocrat.wordpress.com Dan

    BHodges,

    On the other hand, I think the the folks constructing the Center have done a pretty poor job on the PR side and have done little to help otherwise uninformed but open individuals understand their side of the situation, to try and get their message out there, to respond to some of the rhetoric being spread by anti-Islamists, to quell the fear or outrage, to try to spread understanding.

    Because they have so many tools at their disposal to counter News Corp…uh…

    They did reach out. They communicated with the local community, with all the appropriate boards and everything they needed to do locally. The majority of the view locally was positive. They even went on Fox News (Bill O’Reily’s show in December 2009, which was hosted by Laura Ingraham at the time) and Laura Ingraham said she saw nothing wrong with what they were doing.

    How do you counter the onslaught of a behemoth organization like News Corp when they decide to come after you? It was News Corp that let Pamela Geller (rabid anti-Islam fanatic) dictate the talking points over the cultural center. It was News Corp that gave permission to NY Post, Daily News, Wall Street Journal and Fox News among others to push the story daily all summer long. How do you counter such a beast, BHodges? Do you think the local imam has the capacity?

    I agree with you that it is sad that most Mormons side with the fanatical Pamela Geller. That’s pretty freaking pathetic.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    I wouldn’t read much into this. These polls tell us little.
    Right, my brain says this but my gut says otherwise, that rascal.

    Also, I would not read much into the presence and size of Facebook groups.

    Right, but it feels nice to try something, anything, to promote more understanding among co-religionists. Through friend requests etc. people can be exposed to news sources and opinions that will help them better understand the issues.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Dan, I should have been more clear. It was the handling of PR after certain news outlets and political figures decided to make it into a hot-button issue that I found somewhat lacking. I’m familiar with the initial reports, the lack of controversy, etc. which later changed into a rancorous debate. At that point I thought the Center supporters and planners allowed opposing voices to dictate the conversation.

    How do you counter such a beast, BHodges? Do you think the local imam has the capacity?

    Make use of other media outlets. It took a while, but the imam was eventually on Larry King Live (I think he had been out of the country, but were there no other representatives to appear on the topic?) He actually seemed very surprised that the proposal had elevated so aggressively. I think a few more timely press releases in response to specific criticisms, appearances on news programs which I wager were more than willing to host them, etc. could have helped somewhat, at least in the news cycles if not in overall pubic opinion.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    I agree with you that it is sad that most Mormons side with the fanatical Pamela Geller. That’s pretty freaking pathetic.

    I don’t think it’s reasonable based on this survey to conclude that “most Mormons” have any opinion on this topic, given the limitations of polling and the transnational body of Church membership. Also, I doubt even the people who believe the Center should be moved know anything about Pamela Geller, although her hate-mongering may have impacted their opinion. I saw her on CNN a few times, I wasn’t impressed. See this video for instance:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_wqt9edqOQ

  • http://rameumptom.weebly.com Rameumptom

    Blair,

    What do you expect from today’s average Mormon? They do not understand their own doctrine, do not live it, and often ignore the teachings of the prophets in establishing their own politicized religion.

    Hugh Nibley bemoaned the BYU effect, where many students would proclaim, “I know the gospel is true, so I really do not need to know anything else….” I sometimes fear the average member of the Church, because many have chosen to be ignoramuses with strong opinions. Instead of using both brain and heart, they use one or the other, but not both. Emotional decisions or heartless decisions (don’t get me started on the attitude towards immigration), just is not becoming of true LDS. The General Authorities have encouraged us towards patience with other religions, yet we see such active hatred against Muslims. The GAs have taught us to use love with illegal immigrants, yet many members would gladly kick their fellow Mormons out of the USA and back into poverty.

    I hope I never am so narrow-minded, though I know I have to always be on guard against it.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Ram, I don’t know that I’ve seen much “active hatred” for Muslims among church members. Granted I grew up in Utah, served a state-side mission in the midwest, but I don’t recall much active hatred. I don’t see this poll reflecting active hatred, either, it seems to me if reflects ignorance/intolerance more than hatred.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    But yes, I’ve been bugged at times by fellow members who manifest a confident ignorance about other faith traditions.

  • Kevin Barney

    I’m a member of that FB group, so there’s that…

  • DavidH

    I think it is tied to politics and to the conservative religious views of Mormons. Mormons are overwhelmingly republican; republicans overwhelmingly oppose the mosque. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/08/poll-republicans-strip-club-mosque_n_756259.html The Pew poll Blair cites does not break out conservative evangelical protestants from mainline protestants. Based on many other studies showing that LDS political social views are similar to (but further to the right) than church going evangelical views, I suspect that a similar percentage of evangelicals oppose the mosque location as do catholics and Mormons.

    Given the overwhelming republican and conservative nature of white U.S. Mormons, I also believe that most Mormons prefer Fox News over any other media. It should not be surprising then that Mormon views track those of Fox News.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    If such is the case, it is disconcerting for several reasons, including the fact that there are reasonable grounds for conservatives to support the building of the Center as well.

  • John Mansfield

    If you want to feel better about Mormons’ stance on this compared to others’, then look beyond the first column of those poll results. There isn’t a majority of any group, not even Muslims, that wants an Islamic center built on the proposed location. Mormons just aren’t as interested as others in turning the project it into an interfaith center.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    It’s hard to believe that Muslim views wouldn’t be impacted by the outcry the proposal has ignited. Their result could just as much be a pragmatic desire to lay low more than anything else. As for Mormons, what would their reasons be? I feel bad because I feel like Mormons ought to be above the curve on this one and they aren’t.

  • MormonDeadhead

    Though, as was stated, poll results are far from conclusive, this certainly is a timely and much needed post. It does seem to me that the anti (and/or ignorance of) Muslim sentiment might coincide more with the fact that Mormons tend to be conservative and thus, look to conservative sources for their information (or lack thereof) on current events. I would be interested if Mormons in a more conservative part of the country would poll different than Mormons from a more liberal part of the country. In any case, we need more awareness and understanding between all religious groups. It is my experience (I live in one of the more conservative parts of the country), that the members in my ward/stake are not going to go out and read a book on Islam. Rather, information seems to come from 5-15 minute informal discussions. In the past, I have tried to focus on parallels between the two faiths (prophet, new scripture, dietary code, etc.). Any thoughts on the strengths/weaknesses with this approach? I am more than confident that many here could recommend good reading for someone wanting to become more informed about Islam, but what are some good talking points to be utilized in a brief informal discussion with your friend that represents the above poll while the two of you are skipping out on Sunday School:)?

  • JHayes

    A former Bishop of mine is on the Public Affairs council for southern California and his interfaith work is almost exclusively with Muslims. I know way too many people in my stake who are truly, genuinely concerned for his safety because he works with Muslims and its just appalling. Some people joke about it but I really don’t find it funny at all. In light of this, and the fact that I had people from church “unfriend” me on facebook over my support for the “Mosque” (if you can even call it that), that poll doesn’t surprise me at all.

  • http://rameumptom.weebly.com Rameumptom

    Blair, perhaps the term “hatred” is premature. However, such ignorant and intolerant stances often lead to hate crimes. Just look at what happened at MMM due to events that began with intolerant attitudes.

    After our history, we should be among the most tolerant. Perhaps LDS need to seek their understanding from scripture, rather than the news outlets. What would they figure from the Articles of Faith? Or the Book of Mormon? Perhaps a little more charity on our part, and less political stance would be good for us as a people.

    As it is, I belonged since the early 1990s to a conservative email list, until recently one of the chief members called me a Signaturi. With that comment, I knew I’d outgrown the group.

  • aliquis

    BHodges:

    there are reasonable grounds for conservatives to support the building of the Center as well

    I couldn’t agree more. Also, as long as we’re talking about prominent Mormon leaders, it’s worth noting that Orrin Hatch went on record as supporting the Center for all the right reasons.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Also, Hatch wasn’t in a Bob Bennett situation, which might have played a factor, but might not have played a factor. Either way, I was glad to see Hatch articulate such a stance.

  • John Mansfield

    “How ironic would it be if Mormons and Catholics, two groups historically marginalized in the United States, should be among those more likely to oppose the construction of the Islamic Center near Ground Zero?”—from the post above

    “I feel bad because I feel like Mormons ought to be above the curve on this one and they aren’t”—from comment #23

    So, looking at all three columns and noticing that the 20% of polled Mormons who favored building an Islamic center at that site is a little bit more than the 15% of Catholics and 18% of Protestants who felt that way, and not a whole lot less than the 25% of Jews who did, has modified your feelings?

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    I’m not satisfied with 20% regardless of the percentage of any other group, John.

  • John Mansfield

    Fine sentiment, but your post began and ended with comparison to other groups.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Do you take issue with Gallup’s own summary: “Muslims, Jews, other non-Christians and non-religious Americans are more likely to favor retaining the current location as originally conceived, or transforming the center into an interfaith institution. The majority of Catholics, Mormons, and, to a lesser degree, Protestants, believe the center should find another location.” ?

  • John Mansfield

    Yes, I do take exception. Transforming the center at that location into an interfaith institution would be an act closer to not building it at all than to building it as an Islamic center. Do you feel differently?

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Could just as well reflect an LDS lack of interest in interfaith centers as much as anything else.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    A friend sent along a column opposing the Center and said it demonstrated how someone could oppose the Center without being anti-Islam. To clarify, I’m not saying any opposition to the Center constitutes anti-Islamism.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/12/AR2010081204996.html

    Here’s a quick response:

    I agree with the author when he says that Ground Zero is “unlike any other place and therefore unique criteria govern what can be done there.” (It should be noted that the Center isn’t at Ground Zero, it is near Ground Zero, but for the sake of argument I’ll concede the point; it’s near enough.) But this is the main reason I think his comparisons to Disneyland and Auschwitz are not particularly relevant in dictating what should happen near Ground Zero, which is “unlike any other place and therefore” requires “unique criteria” to “govern” what happens there. Unique criteria that he doesn’t really offer, other than an appeal to emotion and false equivalences on matters like scope (of victims and perpetrators) and ideological circumstances.

    He says Mayor Bloomberg “inadvertently concedes” the claims of opponents to the Center by calling for “special sensitivity.” First, supporters of the Center need not be confined to Bloomberg’s reasoning anyway.Second, it doesn’t really strike me as a good argument because no one is denying the area requires special sensitivity. It’s possible to uphold religious freedom, allow the Center to be built, and at the same time manifest a level of sensitivity.

    The author goes on to refer to Islamic radicals as a “a particular Islamist orthodoxy,” which seems to be an unfair rhetorical gambit. It is like saying FLDS folks, or Brian David Mitchell, represent “a particular Mormon orthodoxy.” This is a sneaky sort of guilt by association. He then quickly tries to mitigate the damage, saying the radicals are a minority, but then tries to leverage this into pressure upon Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, bringing up statements that imply the Imam is some sort of radical himself. He brings up passed statements like the “accessory to the crime” line. Rauf has since clarified his intent and noted that the statement was unwise at the time, but that the underlying sentiment (ie, that US foreign policy has had a part to play-however minimal-in the still-unjustified attacks. So the author might take a little punch out of First Amendment arguments, but doesn’t eradicate them, or account for other arguments in favor of the proposed Center.

    The author’s final argument about zoning laws is weak because again, he presents false equivalencies- strip malls, liquor stores- and also assumes that people in the neighborhood in NY all oppose the Center. But if a group in Montana opposes a liquor store in Las Vegas I don’t think they’ll have much of an impact. “Other [restrictions] are for more profound reasons of common decency and respect for the sacred.” Yes, but can’t the area be sacred to Muslims as well, and sacred to a country who I believe needs to recognize a difference between radicals and peaceful Muslims? Even peaceful American Muslims who also died on 9/11?

    To me, this editorial falls short of a good argument to move the Center. It seems to exude misplaced blame. Parenthetically, it also happens to play right into the narrative al Quaeda and other Islamic radicals want to tell their adherents and recruits; that America is somehow against “Islam.” The center is one (very important) way our country can demonstrate solidarity with peaceful Muslims, and to allow them a place to heal from the tragedy as well. This editorial seems to forget that Muslims were also victims on 9/11. The situation needs to be judged on its own merits, like the author claims but does not do.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com Chris H.

    Yep, Krauthammer would never ever be mistaken for being anti-Islamic.

  • John Mansfield

    “(It should be noted that the Center isn’t at Ground Zero, it is near Ground Zero, but for the sake of argument I’ll concede the point; it’s near enough.)”

    Good concession, since for Iman Feisal Abdul Rauf the location was an important part of his conception of the project:

    The building has no sign that hints at its use as a Muslim prayer space, but these modest beginnings point to a far grander vision: an Islamic center near the city’s most hallowed piece of land that would stand as one of ground zero’s more unexpected and striking neighbors.

    “The location was precisely a key selling point for the group of Muslims who bought the building in July. A presence so close to the World Trade Center, ‘where a piece of the wreckage fell,’ said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric leading the project, ‘sends the opposite statement to what happened on 9/11.’”

    “Muslim Prayers and Renewal Near Ground Zero”, NY Times, Dec. 8, 2009

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    John, it seems like you oppose building the Center at its current location but haven’t given any good reasons. Am I reading you wrong?

  • John Mansfield

    Yes, you are reading me wrong. Just as you don’t like the rigor of arguments opposing the center, there are several recurring themes in support of it that seem like poor thinking.

    1) The location doesn’t matter; it’s just some spot in lower Manhattan with no particular connection to Sept. 11.

    See the iman’s words above on that one.

    2) It’s a local, personal issue; only those in that community or related to the deceased in the attacks have any stake in this. (This one gets used in different ways by both supporters and opponents.)

    The nation was attacked in 2001 and left reeling, just as the attack on Pearl Harbor was felt by Americans who had never been to Hawaii.

    3) The attacks on Sept. 11 had nothing to do with Islam, or at least nothing to do with most Islamists.

    This is one were there is a lot to discuss. For the attackers of Sept. 11, it had a lot to do with their religion. For Iman Feisal Abdul Rauf, overcoming that act of his co-religionists is at the center of his project. But why are we sorting out bad Muslims and good Muslims? If we support the freedom of all to build worship centers as long their building permits are in order, then it shouldn’t matter even if the promoters of Park51 were law-abiding members of the Mohammed Atta Fan Club.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    1) The location doesn’t matter; it’s just some spot in lower Manhattan with no particular connection to Sept. 11.

    I haven’t seen this argument in the current discussion (nor, to be honest, have I seen anyone make that sort of claim anywhere).

    2) It’s a local, personal issue; only those in that community or related to the deceased in the attacks have any stake in this.

    It is first and foremost a local issue by law, no? Also, there were innocent Muslims killed in the attack, innocent Muslims in the community, and innocent Muslims in the nation and world, so even if a person wants to confine the decision or impact to the local setting or immediately-concerned victims Muslims would still be included, a Center wouldn’t be ruled out by those factors regardless, unless we want to settle it by exact body count, which inappropriately leaves other factors out in the cold anyway.

    3) The attacks on Sept. 11 had nothing to do with Islam, or at least nothing to do with most Islamists.

    I’ve never seen anyone make this claim either, and I certainly don’t make it. Who has made this claim? It seems like you are bringing up a few strawmen points rather than giving any good reasons why Mormons should oppose the building of the Center.

    If we support the freedom of all to build worship centers as long their building permits are in order, then it shouldn’t matter even if the promoters of Park51 were law-abiding members of the Mohammed Atta Fan Club.

    I feel like you’re overlooking some of my other points. Who in this discussion is basing their argument strictly on the First Amendment? Anyway, on this subject I recommend the interesting book Courting the Abyss by John Durham Peters.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    PS- I’m “reading you wrong,” ie, you do support building the Center at the current site, then?

  • John Mansfield

    Do I support? I wouldn’t donate money to build it nor exert myself in any other way to see it built. Neither would I throw obstacles in the way of those trying to do so. On the governmental side of it, I like Mayor Bloomberg’s stance that it’s none of his business where people try to build a mosque or temple or shrine or fellowship center. (And in the realm of strawmen, away from the fringes there are few who wish to oppose the Islamic center by any means other than persuading the developers not to do what they are perfectly free to do.) I think the iman’s idea is basically a good one, and I’m fine with the location (which is a large part of the idea). I think the timing is off. A year from now when One World Trade Center is topped out, it would have come off much better; the worries about it being a symbol of triumph in battle would have resonated less.

    I have a hard time believing that you have seen no claims that the site has no connection to Sept. 11. Really? None of those rhetorical questions about how many blocks away would pacify the overly sensitive? No one claiming that it was simply an available site that isn’t even particularly near the old towers?

    “Also, there were innocent Muslims killed in the attack, “ etc.

    On that basis shouldn’t there be a Jewish center related to the destruction of the twin towers, and another developed by Christians? I don’t get what point you are trying to develop with the idea that people died on Sept. 11, and some of those people were Muslim. That isn’t why Park51 was proposed.

    “Who in this discussion is basing their argument strictly on the First Amendment?”

    I am. If others’ support for religious liberty is more conditional, then that helps me see why some see a need to play up the “these are good Muslims” angle. I think such arguments need to be stronger if they are going to be advanced; most of them don’t even try to establish that Iman Feisal Abdul Rauf is a good citizen, but just assume it. Ten years ago, I usually flew with a lockback knife in my pocket. I could open a bank account without showing a social security card. I could meet air travelers at the gate. I could visit the Statue of Liberty without turning out my pockets. There is someone out there for whose sake we are putting ourselves through a lot of inconvenience, and a significant part of it comes from the Muslim world.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    …away from the fringes there are few who wish to oppose the Islamic center by any means other than persuading the developers not to do what they are perfectly free to do.

    I imagine there may be people like this, but we haven’t heard from them, nor heard what sort of arguments of persuasion they might advance.

    …the worries about it being a symbol of triumph in battle would have resonated less.

    I strongly doubt this is the case. It seems more likely to me that the hubbub may have been avoided if political considerations weren’t a factor.

    I have a hard time believing that you have seen no claims that the site has no connection to Sept. 11. Really? None of those rhetorical questions about how many blocks away would pacify the overly sensitive? No one claiming that it was simply an available site that isn’t even particularly near the old towers?

    Here’s your statement from above:

    The attacks on Sept. 11 had nothing to do with Islam, or at least nothing to do with most Islamists.

    I encourage you to provide a source on this, a link, a quote, a reference that shows otherwise, because no, I’ve never seen anyone claim that Islam had nothing to do with 9/11.

    On that basis shouldn’t there be a Jewish center related to the destruction of the twin towers, and another developed by Christians?

    First of all, any of those groups are more than welcome to develop property there, I never said otherwise. Second of all, that isn’t my point at all. My point is that claiming that the Center is an affront to the victims or the families of the victims overlooks the fact that there is no single monochromatic group of “victims,” and that yes, there were Islamic victims in the attack, physical and religious.

    The Muslim world”? Seriously? This is the exact sort of attitude I hope Mormons know better than to advance. Further, forgive me for not having too much compassion for the difficulties of not being able to carry a pocket knife on a plane, and having to show a SS card when opening a bank account. Somehow those burdens seem lesser than some of the burdens the US has imposed upon other nations.

    Anyway, you said you don’t oppose the Center being built. Looks like we’re agreed on that point and I’m fine with that.

  • The Right Trousers

    A short statistical analysis of the results.

    1) The first Gallup question is too ambiguous and uses too much passive voice. In particular, it often doesn’t distinguish between actors.

    It is very easy for a religious respondent to think the first resolution means the mosque-builders themselves should realize their PR error and move. (I *think* this is the intended sense of the answer, but I’m not sure.) It is likewise easy for a strident anti-religionist to read it as saying they should be compelled by the government. (“Oh, those evil, two-faced Mormons!”)

    As such, the Gallup results cannot indicate whether religious groups, as a whole, support their right to build. Supporting a right vs. actively supporting an activity is an important distinction, and Gallup is contributing to us losing the distinction in the public debate.

    (If you don’t think the distinction is important, why not?)

    2) The maximum margin of error is a whopping +/- 9%, at least, for all groups. That means two groups that measured 18 points apart can easily have identical sentiment. (It’s less likely at the extremes because percentages have skewed distributions, but that gives you a rough idea.)

    So on the whole, we can’t actually distinguish between religious groups, but… Gallup does, in the text accompanying the results! Shame on them. Don’t follow their lead.

    3) A sin more grievous than either #1 or #2: they only reported “5″ on the second question. Now, I think most people would regard a self-reported “4″ as meaning that a person could make an informed decision. (If you disagree, why?)

    It’s okay to do this if, for example, the rest of the responses were almost uniform, *if you say so in your report*, or if you make a good case that “5″ is all that matters. But they didn’t do either.

    In fact, I’d say that the Mormon response is an obvious outlier. Respondents’ political affiliations should affect what or how much they hear about any political issue more than their religious affiliations. I mean, if Mormons are politically like most protestants, how could they possibly miss this all over Fox News?

    It’s probably caused by polling error (#2), Mormons being a bit conservative about how much they know about the issue, the fact that most of us are far west of the site, or some combination.

  • John Mansfield

    JM: “…away from the fringes there are few who wish to oppose the Islamic center by any means other than persuading the developers not to do what they are perfectly free to do.”

    BH: “I imagine there may be people like this, but we haven’t heard from them, nor heard what sort of arguments of persuasion they might advance.”

    You mentioned Harry Reid in your post. The statement issued through his spokesman was “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else.”

    From an analysis by one journalist who didn’t like Reid’s statement: “Some are pointing out that Harry Reid, by citing the First Amendment and religious freedom, is reaffirming the group’s right to build the project. That’s true. But it’s not terribly relevant in the current political context. First off, that’s not a difficult position to take. Many Republicans also respect the group’s right to build, while claiming that the group is wrong to exercise that right.”

    . . .

    “Reid is not willing to say that. Rather, he’s saying, in effect, that even if he supports the group’s right to build the center, he’s not willing to respect the decision to do so. That’s unacceptable, and leaves Obama isolated at a very sensitive moment.”

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/08/breaking_reid_calls_for_mosque.html

  • John Mansfield

    “I encourage you to provide a source on this, a link, a quote, a reference that shows otherwise, because no, I’ve never seen anyone claim that Islam had nothing to do with 9/11.”

    There’s a comment by BHodges at Juvenile Instructor: “The building is only offensive to those who believe Islam as a whole is to blame for the fallen towers,” …

    You are not offended by the proposed building, and the idea that Islam as a whole had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks is an element of that. There is something to your argument, but I worry about it undermining the religious liberty of people that who don’t meet public approval, such as Muslims who rejoiced at the attacks.

    http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/mormons-and-mosques-and-now-harry-reid/#comment-78750

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    John, re your #45, Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else.”

    This doesn’t qualify as an “argument of persuasion” addressed to the mosque builders. I’m looking for good arguments addressed to the builders which are not simple appeals to “sensitivity” (of an assumed sensitive group constituted of who knows who). That is what I was asking for.If you have an example of that let me know.

    Your #46 doesn’t even make sense to me. I asked for an example of someone claiming that ISLAM had nothing to do with 9/11. You provided a quote where I make no such argument at all. You’ll have to find something that fits the criteria, namely: someone claiming that ISLAM (note, ISLAM generally, not elements of Islam, not factions adhering to some form of Islamic faith, ISLAM itself) had nothing to do with 9/11. Such a claim would be completely absurd, and my comment from JI makes no such claim.

  • http://www.lifeongoldplates.com BHodges

    Trousers, you have written out some of the drawbacks I alluded to in the opening post. Thinking through the quells some of my disappointment, but am still not satisfied. You noted that some members might think the builders of the center should acknowledge their PR mistake and move, rather than thinking the govt. should force them to move. I wager most Mormons would argue that legally the Center should be allowed to be built there. But the “PR error” (singular?) came months after the announcement, after much positive PR. My aside about PR mistakes is in reference to a slow reaction to what I see as unreasonable and inflammatory reports which caught them by surprise months after the Center was announced. I don’t think Mormons should fall back on a move based on PR any more than they should a legal argument, however.

    As for your general distinctions, I’m taking the most obvious reading of the question as a basis although I think the q’s could have been formulated much better. I think adjusting for any misunderstood question would still generally leave the Mormon stats wanting. Can’t prove it though, so instead we get to have a nice discussion on supporting the Center itself.

    The margin of error might boost Mormons up by 9% on any of the respective categories. It might also bump them down. Leaving comparisons with other faiths aside, that still leaves me feeling blue about Mormon responses here.

    You make a good point that many Mormons might have answered 4 instead of 5. It’s probably a more reasonable answer, but indicates that Mormons who followed the story fairly well (in their own eyes) preferred not to speak up for the proposed Center in a simple poll. (I’d feel just as bad about a “4″ if the 4 came from heavy Fox News viewing, anyway.)


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