land of the free, home of the brave

Except in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Today I read the story about Ramin Parsa, a former Muslim who fled his native Iran after he became a Christian. Parsa now lives and works as a pastor in Los Angeles. Last August, while visiting in Minnesota, his hosts took him to see “the biggest mall in North America.” While there, the pastor randomly encountered a couple of Somalis and as their conversation progressed, Parsa was asked if he was Muslim. At that point he shared his Christian convictions with them, but was promptly ordered by mall security guards to cease talking about that, and shortly thereafter he was arrested and treated abusively. 

You see, the Mall of America is a private, not public space, and it has rules against “solicitation.” So, along with not being able to pester people for money, or offer your services as a prostitute, at the Mall of America you also cannot have a private, polite conversation about anyone’s spiritual welfare. 

Surprise, surprise: Mr. Parsa’s story has been conveniently overlooked by many media outlets, including even some in Minnesota. 

Now, I am not a legal expert or a Constitutional scholar, but in my understanding–and I’m sure in the understanding of most rational-thinking Americans–First Amendment free speech INCLUDES the right to freely explain one’s religious or political beliefs or opinions. 

Except, apparently, in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Through my life, both professionally and privately, I have known and worked with thousands of different types of persons and personalities. They all had their own beliefs and opinions and likes and dislikes and food cravings and sexual desires. Some people have been utterly fascinating; others I found mind-numbingly boring. With some individuals I have been able to establish immediate rapport and even friendship, while other people so thoroughly “rubbed me the wrong way” that  I found myself wishing for the power of invisibility so I could disappear  whenever I caught sight of them.

But always, as a Christian, I have attempted to respect each person as an image-bearer of God. And always, as an American, I have attempted to respect each person as someone with a right to their opinion (no matter how repellant or stupid). Because in the United States of America, we celebrate the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Except, apparently, in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

I like malls and I like shopping, although I get burned out rather quickly (unless, of course I discover a bookstore–or a cool hardware store). I have always enjoyed the bustle and interaction of people and the general hum of activity and fun, especially this holiday time of year, despite the excess of rampant materialism. In general, malls have historically been places for people to hang out and enjoy themselves and possibly even sometimes find out something new.

Except, apparently, in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

That place needs to have “America” stripped from its name. Maybe change it to “Mall of Totalitarianism.”

2 thoughts on “land of the free, home of the brave

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