In the ongoing debate over the proposed “Ground Zero Mosque,” those opposing it have often claimed that they are not arguing that government should have the ability to stop the construction of the site. They say that the other side’s constant criticism that the opposition to the mosque represents an attempt at restricting freedom of religion is false, because they are not advocating using government force — only persuasion — to prevent the construction.
But then came recent comments last week from one of the most vocal critics of the proposed construction, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich:
In a radio interview today, he said he wants the national government to step in and stop the developers from building the Islamic community center by whatever means necessary … And if that fails, he said, the state government should step in and use its considerable power to stymie the development. “The Attorney General of New York, Andrew Cuomo, could intervene because frankly he has the ability to slow it down for decades if he wants to.”
Government preventing the construction of a place of worship based primarily on the fact that a large group of citizens oppose that religion has no place under our system of government. It is becoming evident that several in the opposition to this construction are willing to use government force to prevent it. So much for that whole, “This is not about freedom of religion” thing.
Below is a recent CNN segment highlighting a fact largely lost in the “Ground Zero Mosque” debate: There have been Muslims worshiping in the existing building for a while.
So, what is the response from those opposing the construction of the new mosque? Kick them out? If not and the current situation is fine, how small does a mosque have to be for opponents to be OK with it near Ground Zero? Tricky little facts like this sort of make the heated rhetoric over the issue seem a little overblown.
The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” is a rather good test of our committment to religious freedom. It seems that under different circumstances, say a group of Christians wanting to build a church on property they owned, there would be little to no outcry. But it’s not Christians wanting to build a house of worship near the site where the Twin Towers once stood, it’s Muslims. And that’s clearly the crux of the matter. Despite secondary appeals to saving the present building there as a historic landmark, the real issue boiling the blood of many Americans is that the site will be used to house a mosque.
And in some sense they are rightfully justified in noting the seemingly insensitive desire to place a shrine to Islam so close to the spot where Islamic terrorists killed around 3,000 innocent Americans. The unsettling nature of it is evident.
But the crux of the issue is whether those opposing the mosque believe they should oppose it through protests or through government action. It’s clear that many opponents are pursuing the legal route.
[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=ground+zero+mosque&iid=8913490″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/8913490/proposed-mosque-near/proposed-mosque-near.jpg?size=500&imageId=8913490″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a conservative legal group connected with the Rev. Pat Robertson, has sought court action, basing its objections at least nominally on the process used to deny the site landmark status. But one can’t deny that behind these objections is a specific aversion to the creation of a large Muslim place of worship just blocks away from the 9/11 site. The rhetoric on cable news and talk radio is abuzz with anger over the plan to build a mosque — not the idea that the present building on the site should be preserved as some sort of landmark.