Editorial: Free to build a mosque near Ground Zero
The opposition to an Islamic center proposed in Manhattan begins with an inaccurate description. The planned Cordoba Center will not be located at Ground Zero, let alone on the actual site of the World Trade Center towers. The Cordoba Initiative proposes a 13-story building several blocks away from the site, housing offices, a cultural center, a mosque and, its backers now say, an interfaith chapel.
So while any development on the World Trade Center site must be built with great respect for what is the final resting place for thousands of people, extending that special treatment beyond the site is problematic - especially when it clashes with fundamental national principles.
Freedom of religion is among the most inviolate of those principles. The First Amendment prohibits government from interfering with the practice of religion. Americans are free to build their houses of worship wherever they want, whatever their faith. That didn't change on 9/11.
That point seems to be lost on those opposing this mosque. Among the worst arguments is that voiced by Newt Gingrich, former House speaker and potential presidential contender, who said the U.S. shouldn't allow the mosque to be built in Manhattan until Saudi rulers allow Christian churches to built in Saudi Arabia. If we are taking instruction in religious freedom from the Saudis, the First Amendment is in serious trouble.
Yesterday a New York City panel cleared the way for the Cordoba Center by refusing to grant landmark status to the building that will be razed so the center can be built. They were following the law - the old building is in no way deserving of landmark status - just as others should respect the law that says government may not favor one religion over another.
The MetroWest (Mass.) Daily News