Dr. Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has expressed criticism of Herman Cain's recent comments on the planned mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Richard Land said that while he agreed that allowing Sharia law in American courts is unconstitutional, he recommended to Herman Cain that he should read the First Amendment to the Constitution where it states that government shall not interfere with the free exercise of religion. Land said that:
Mr. Cain, of all people, as an African American, should understand that our civil rights have to be guaranteed at a federal level.I don't think he would want to leave the civil rights of an African American to the local voters in Philadelphia and Mississippi where they buried three civil rights workers – one black, two white – under a dam after they had killed them.
Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain had said to reporters that the plan to build an Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Rutherford County, Tennessee infringed upon and abused the freedom of Americans. Cain's statement that the mosque is not an "innocent mosque" was in support of some community members who had expressed their opposition to the building of the mosque on the grounds that it was a way to "sneak" Sharia law into America. Cain, in a Fox News Sunday interview, said that he believed that the Murfreessboro community had the right to ban the building of a mosque in their community.
Richard Land, in his reaction to Herman Cain's statements, said:
I think the First Amendment is one of those amendments that is too important and protects rights that are too central to our guaranteed rights in this country to be left with a local option.
The Southern Baptist leader argued that Muslims like all other Americans have the right to a place of worship close to their homes and that Muslims have the right to live according to their faith provided they did not attempt to impose their religions on government. Richard Land also said that Muslim women have the right to use veils and live by Muslim law in their marriage.
Herman Cain has, however, restated that he stands by his statement. In a statement to blogger Robert Stacy McCain, Cain said emphatically, "I don't back down one iota from my statement." Herman Cain argued that his statements did not imply discrimination but rather caution. Cain said:
No, it's not the same type of discrimination that went on in this country in the 50s and 60s.
Herman Cain claimed that he was privy to information that the extremist Muslim group, the Muslim Brotherhood, had a hand in the plan to build the mosque. Residents of Murfreesboro had last year taken to the streets in protest of the plan to build a mosque in their community and they later sued the county, but a county judge ruled that the building of the mosque could continue.