The Telegram printed an article on June 2 informing its readers that Muslim leaders were seeking a section of the cemetery to be sectioned off for Muslim use.
As a taxpayer and citizen I object and take offense to such an action for several reasons.
Churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship enjoy tax-free status on their properties. This has historically been due to separation of church and state issues. Segregating a portion of public property solely for a specific religion is effectively donating that ground to that particular religious group. I think the city council might find themselves in an awkward position should someone wish to challenge such an action.
If a religious group wishes to segregate itself from the common area because it finds the symbol of the cross or the Star of David offensive, they should purchase their own ground and set forth their own set of rules in compliance with U.S. secular law. When we as Americans begin to segregate ourselves because of race, color or creed, we take a major step backward in time and invite unnecessary divisiveness among our citizenry.
If the city agrees to one religious group's wish to segregate itself, what will they do when other denominations request similar treatment? How will we respond if a group of atheists wish to be buried in their own separate section because they might be offended by the religious references normally found in a cemetery? Where does it stop? What happens when a non-Muslim or atheist insists that he or she wishes to purchase a plot and be buried in the segregated Muslim area? What are the legal ramifications?
There are hundreds of different religions and sects within each religion that all have their own rituals for life and death.
When public policy exceptions are made for one religious sect, we open the door for other exceptions. America was founded on the premise that as immigrants come to this country, they are assimilated into our American "melting pot." It is that homogenization process that has made this country great.
Furthermore, we currently have young men and women fighting and dying in a war against religious intolerance and radicalism. I don't think it's appropriate to undermine their efforts by carving out a portion of our cemetery to accede to such a request.
We all try to respect each other's religious beliefs, but segregating a portion of a public cemetery for one specific religion is not only a likely violation of the separation of church and state, but it is offensive to all others who are or will be buried in our cemetery, resting in peace together, not as Muslims, Christians, Jews or whatever, but as Americans who have helped make this country the great nation it is.