Bloomberg Gets It Right
As the “Ground Zero mosque” controversy rolls along, supporters and opponents alike have laid out their case in numerous articles, television segments, and even that distinguished platform known as Twitter. But Mayor Bloomberg’s speech—coming a day after the Landmarks Preservation Committee voted not to grant the site protected status, clearing the way for the project’s development—was an important recasting of what has become a national debate.
As a local development, the Cordoba Initiative’s planned community center and mosque has the support of residents and officials, no small feat given the complexities of real estate development in New York. The founders of the proposed development have resided in lower Manhattan for nearly three decades. The local community board voted in favor, 29-1. Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn have voiced their support.
Yet the issue has been hijacked as conservatives have rallied around the phrase “Ground Zero mosque," seeking to bolster their otherwise flagging campaigns (see: Rick Lazio), or taking up the airwaves in their capacity as nationally recognizable figures who hold no position, and thus no accountability, in elected government (see: Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin).
The proposed mosque, situated two blocks from Ground Zero, is obviously a sensitive issue. But that is no excuse for the vitriolic and demagogic attacks against religious freedom. As Bloomberg reminded us yesterday,
“Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.”