I’ve been reluctant to comment in writing about the “Ground Zero Mosque” because enough had been said, leaving little to add. Anyone paying attention would know by now that the proposed site is two blocks from a corner of Ground Zero in an area that is now filled with strip joints and tattoo parlors. Calling it a mosque rather than a community center is analogous to referring a Knights of Columbus hall as a Catholic church.
The legality of the project is confirmed by the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of religion. For that reason alone I come down on the side of its being built without further ado. Parenthetically it is my understanding that freedom from religion is also assured. In this context a strong argument can be made against government financing religious endeavors, which is done through tax exemption. I see no reason why religion shouldn’t be privatized like other businesses. As to those who object to the project on principle, my opinion is that they are motivated by political/financial gain, bigotry, mean spirit, ignorance or a combination of the above.
However my conclusion comes with some ambivalence. I wonder how much thought the imam and his people gave to the likely consequences of the project. This is a diverse country in which those predictably opposed to the project, not famous as silent sufferers, would make their Pavlovian responses heard. The folks who run the media know a good thing when they see it. Much of the ill will engendered by this undertaking is not covered by the Constitution. When I changed beers after hearing my brand advertised on a Rush Limbaugh show I wasn’t violating his right to free speech.
In addition to being a distraction from things that matter more, the wide coverage of this controversy figures to boost Al Qaeda recruitment. The argument can be made that churches are verboten in Saudi Arabia. But that country doesn’t have freedom of religion etched in stone in its most venerable laws. Quite the opposite! Osama bin Laden couldn’t have planned it better.
I have no reason to impugn the motives of the people who started this project. But I see the results of their action as hurting the country, and wish it had never been started. Since it has, it should be allowed to proceed. It must if we want the think of ourselves as a nation of laws.