In the United states a priest or a pastor of a church can not give a sermon endorsing a particular candidate or political party. If he does, the church can loose its tax exempt status. This is because in endorsing a candidate or political party, the priest or pastor leaves the realm of religion/spirituality and crosses into the realm of politics.
Political speech is not part of the free exercise of religion. Political speech is guaranteed under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution under the Freedom of Speech clause, not the Free Exercise [of religion] clause.
A clergyman still has his freedom of speech to state his political opinions about how society should be governed, but he can not claim that people must not object to his political opinions because by doing so they are interfering with his free exercise of religion.
As shown below, a person advocating for the adaption or application of
Sharia Law is making a political, not a religious statement, although his motivation may be religious.
The 1976 edition* of the Encyclopedia Britannica's entry under Islam states as follows: “During [its] early period, Islam acquired its characteristic ethos as a religion uniting in itself both the spiritual and temporal aspects of life and seeking to regulate not only the individuals relationship to God (through his conscience) but human relationships in a social setting as well. Thus there is not only an Islamic religious institution, but also an Islamic law, state, and other institutions governing society.”
The article goes on to say “Jihad means an active struggle using armed force where necessary. The object of Jihad is not the conversion of individuals to Islam, but rather the gaining of political control over the collective affairs of societies to run them in accordance with the principals of Islam.”
Regarding Islamic Law (Sharia) , the Encyclopedia Britannica says: “Total and
unqualified submission to the will of Allah (God) is the fundamental tenant of Islam: Islamic law is therefore the expression of Allah’s command for Muslim society.” The article goes on to explain that “Sharia differs from Western systems of law in two principal respects. In the first place the scope of Sharia is much wider, since it regulates not only man’s relationship with his neighbors and with the state, which is the limit of most other legal systems, but also with God and his own conscience. … The second major distinction between the Sharia and Western legal systems is the result of the Islamic concept of law as the expression of the divine will. … In Islamic jurisprudence, it is not society that molds and fashions the law, but the law that precedes and controls society.”
A person advocating for the adaption or application of Sharia Law is advocating for the establishment of a form of government, which by definition is political. Herein lies the root of the problem that the United States has had with understanding Islam since 9/11: Islam is a religion that advocates for a particular set of laws for society, i.e. a form of government, a political ideology that does not believe that law comes from the consent of the governed.
This is in direct conflict with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which begins by saying "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." This clause was specifically put into the Constitution by the founders for situations such as this.
The 9/11 hijackers sought the establishment of Sharia Law in the United
States. They used violent Jihad as their method to hasten its implementation.
The imam who wants to build the Mosque / Community Center / Whatever -They-Are-Calling-It-Now at Ground Zero also calls for Sharia Law in
America but he apparently is not using violent Jihad as his methodology. He is using the confusion of Americans regarding Islam as stated above.
He desires to place a Mosque at the sight where violent Jihadist died
(were martyred) attacking America. He desires to open the Mosque on
September 11, 2011, quite obviously linking it to the terror attacks.
He also wrote a book in Malaysian titled "A Call to Prayer From the
World Trade Center Rubble. Islamic Da'wah from the Heart of America,
Post 911." Da’wah is Islamic proselytizing. In the Islamic law, da’wah
precedes jihad. See:http://www.911familiesforamerica.org/?p=4754
There is nothing in Islam that states that a Mosque must be built at this site near the World Trade Center. By doing everything he can to link this Mosque to 9/11, this imam is showing his sympathy with the hijackers who attacked America and is, in effect, building a monument to them.
This is all political. Objecting to the political statement made by choosing this site for the Mosque does not violate anyone's right to exercise his religion freedom.
* This edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica was written well before
America's current difficulties with Islam began.