Religious Freedom at Ground Zero?

Though protected by the 1st Amendment, just how much religious freedom will Americans tolerate? A recent article posted at "Religion Dispatches" reflects on the current controversy of plans for a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City.

Is Religious Freedom a Casualty at Ground Zero?
While religious pluralism was a founding ideal of the United States implicit in the 1st Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom, Americans historically have edged toward it kicking and screaming.
By Kambiz Ghaneabassiri in "Religion Dispatches"

New York City’s Landmark Preservation Commission’s unanimous decision on August 3, 2010, to allow plans for the construction of a mosque and community center near Ground Zero to move forward has been hailed by some as a victory for religious freedom, but it has also provided more fodder for latent anti-Muslim sentiments that have surfaced nationally since plans for the project were made public. Regardless of how one views the decision, the controversy surrounding the project is a reminder of the fact that while religious pluralism was a founding ideal of the United States implicit in the 1st Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom, Americans historically have edged toward it kicking and screaming.
Comments (11)

A number of years ago a Roman Catholic religious community wanted to build a chapel near the entry to the Auschwitz death camp, in Poland. A number of Jewish leaders objected, and the religious community thought better of the plan and relocated a distance away. Not as a matter of law, which I think should be neutral, but as a matter of discretion and judgment, the desire of this Muslim community to provoke the kind of sensitivities this plan has provoked, is somewhat puzzling to me.

Bruce Robison

From all I've read about this story, we're looking at political opportunism on the right, and yes, it's as old as Know Nothings and the other political groups in American History that thrive on demonizing and scapegoating an other - Native American, Black, Jew, Irish, Mexican, etc.

This Muslim center was a dream in the works before 9/11. It's a community that was already in that part of New York. It's near but actually not adjacent to the 9/11 site and one telling thing I noticed in the New York Times article is that Trinity Church Wall Street (another near neighbor) has advocated for the project:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/11/nyregion/11mosque.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=MUSLIM%20CENTER%20SPONSORS&st=cse

Can we support Muslims of good faith and open heart? Can we live together? Was 9/11 Islam's attack on the West or radical Islamists' attack on the people of the world including Muslims who died in the buildings' collapse? There's a Christian fundamentalist and right wing answer to that question. And I think there's a contradictory Anglican and Constitutionalist answer to the question.

Why on earth does there have to be a mosque anywhere near Ground Zero? Honestly! How completely tasteless and inconsiderate of the Islamists! The nine-eleven attack was not enough? Really? The mosque should be relocated.

Not as a matter of law, which I think should be neutral, but as a matter of discretion and judgment, the desire of this Muslim community to provoke the kind of sensitivities this plan has provoked, is somewhat puzzling to me.

Bruce first go to Google maps and look up the location of "9/11 Ground Zero" and the property of this Muslim community and you will see that your comparison to a religious community outside the gates of Auschwitz are not even close to similar. The Park51 project will be located in the middle of the block, at 45-51 Park Place, between Church St. and West Broadway, on the north side of the street. A good 2.5 to 3 blocks away, with a number of other buildings on the fully developed blocks between Park Place and Ground Zero.

When the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City was bombed by Timothy McVeigh, a Christian, no one demanded that the Episcopal Cathedral one block away from the OKLA Memorial be torn down because it was very close the memorial site.

Many Muslims were killed in the bombing. They were working in the towers. If we are going to ban religious centers - maybe St. Paul's and Trinity ought to go too.

Building a mosque near 'ground zero' can be a very insensitive gesture, depending on the context. I don't think this particular project is insensitive in the least bit.

The Cordoba Community Center is intended to be a place where multiple faiths can interact, and where moderate Islam can have a foothold. There's really no better place on earth for a moderate Islamic mosque than near ground zero.

@ David - McVeigh did not consider himself a Christian. Perhaps a better analogy is all the churches built along the Trail of Tears a few blocks from where I live.

"Honestly!" What, besides facile prejudice Craig A, makes you equate these AMERICAN Muslims who want to build a community center w/ worship space (aka "mosque"), to the foreign terrorists who attacked the US on 9-11?

ALL (US) Americans receive Constitutional rights (see re Prop8 decision!), or NONE of us do.

JC Fisher

Why on earth does there have to be a mosque anywhere near Ground Zero? Honestly! How completely tasteless and inconsiderate of the Islamists! The nine-eleven attack was not enough? Really? The mosque should be relocated.

What exactly do you mean "The nine-eleven attack was not enough?" Do you seriously think that the 9/11 attack was an attack by Islam against the West? Even George W. Bush made it clear that was not the case!

I think we need to encourage moderate Muslims such as these to build the kind of community center that is planned and stop repeating the "Mosque at Ground Zero" lie. It isn't simply a mosque, it is a community center, and it ISN'T at Ground Zero! How far away would be OK? Would Somewhere else in Manhatten be satisfactory? Anywhere in the City of New York? Where does it end?

If only these Muslims could be more like us Episcopalians: not so in-your-face, nor so serious about religion. That would be the Christian thing.

@ David - McVeigh did not consider himself a Christian. Perhaps a better analogy is all the churches built along the Trail of Tears a few blocks from where I live.

Timothy asked for the ministry of a Roman Catholic priest in the time just prior to his execution. I think that he was a Christian, in the foxhole sort of way.

How completely tasteless and inconsiderate of the Islamists!

It is crucial that we as Americans learn the difference between Islamist Extremism and the Islamic Faith. The proposed mosque and community center is not Islamist, in fact the people behind it see it as a counter to the Islamist Extremist movement.

Ed Husein, a British former Islamist Extremist, in an interview with Krista Tippet (Speaking of Faith) makes the observation that the example of the American Muslim community is probably the best bet for encouraging the development of a moderate, modern version of Islam throughout the world.

It is in our own best interest to encourage this, not to put insulting (and un-American) roadblocks in its path. I am absolutely not a fan of former president George W. Bush, but one of the things he did get right was just this--to make it quite clear that America did not equate Islamists such as Al Qaeda with the Muslim faith.

Fareed Zakaria's essay in the current issue of Newsweek is also a must-read on this subject.

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