In disallowing the Muslim Educational and Cultural Center of America (MECCA) to put a minaret and dome over 36 feet on their new mosque, the DuPage County Board has shown a disappointingly high level of cowardice, and they have failed in their duty to lead the citizens of this county.
I am a Christian believer and pastor. I serve the in Naperville, one of the first churches in DuPage County, founded in 1833. We have survived for 179 years not because we have resisted the forces of change around us, or dug our heels in to fight off newcomers who want to change us, but because we have adapted. We are not the same church we were in 1833. We’re not even the same church we were in 1933. And we may not be the same church in 2033 that we are today. Change happens. New people come, and they bring their own stories, their own traditions, their own values. But we have seen change as a gift of God - an opportunity to grow in our mission, and serve the world’s needs with an open door.
Such is also the case with our county. DuPage County is vastly different now from how it was only a short time ago. I am so grateful to live in such a wonderfully diverse place. I love giving my children the opportunity to interact with, and have friends from different cultures and traditions. We are a strong community because of our diversity, and we are strong because this county has been adaptive to change in its history.
This decision however, represents a failure to adapt to changes in our population, as we become even more religiously diverse. But I am concerned that this decision represents something more threatening than simple stubbornness. I think this is a disregard for religious freedom.
Contrary to what some of my fellow Christians might claim (i.e. with regard to the recent controversies over contraception policy), freedom of religion does not mean that you can restrict the practices of others with whom you disagree. Freedom of religion does mean however, that we respect religious diversity, and our public servants should defend the rights of all people to worship as they choose, whether that is under a steeple or a minaret.
The DuPage County Board has a responsibility to lead this county - to show courage in the face of adversity, adaptation in the face of change, and to follow the laws and values of our state and nation. They have failed in all three of these things on this issue.
The Rev. Mark Winters