The difference in a nutshell: the “mosque” is not at “Ground Zero.” The dude in Florida actually is going to burn a Quran.
Rights aren’t rights if they are subject to other people’s approval and permission. The proper authorities in Manhattan approved Park51. I doubt very much it would have been built at Ground Zero or even facing the World Trade Center site. Your right to build anything on any property is subject to zoning and environmental laws, yet even those are subject to the Constitution.
So how is the Quran burning different? It’s a pretty clear cut case of speech, yet even pure speech has limits; it can’t incite a riot, for example. The only reason there is this potential is that the media is running with this. I’m pretty sure people burn things all the time. Hell, even our own army flushed pages of the Quran down the toilet at Abu Ghraib.
But people are so screwed up when it comes to talking about rights versus good ideas. I think that this atmosphere of intolerance is getting out of control, but I don’t know that stopping this one asswipe in Florida will do any good. People will do it. How you exercise your rights says a lot about who you are.
A cross in front of Auschwitz, a mosque actually at Ground Zero and burning the Quran are all extremely bad ideas. Only two of those are actually being contemplated or done.
P.S. The ADL’s silence on the Quran burning is deafening.