New York City is known for rigidly regulating the location and specifications of buildings within its jurisdiction. But, officials there have suddenly turned into extreme libertarians about protecting the religious and property rights of the prospective owners of the ground-zero mosque.
That’s the $100 million, 15-story center scheduled to be built one block from ground zero in lower Manhattan. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission eagerly approved the mosque’s application, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has dismissed as religious bigots all who disagree with that decision.
Could these same defenders of every Muslim man’s right to build a mosque wherever he owns property be the same ones who previously had no qualms about seizing private property to redevelop Times Square, condemning small businesses for a $6.3 billion expansion of Columbia University, or confiscating another parcel on Sixth Avenue to make way for Bank of America? Is this the same Bloomberg who led the successful opposition to a recent state legislative proposal to limit local officials’ ability to use eminent domain against private property owners? Surely it was a different Bloomberg who claimed that the Empire State Development Corp. should be able to force the sale of property for any “civic purpose.”
Can there be a higher civic purpose than preventing construction of a Muslim propaganda and recruiting center so close to the murder site of 3,000 Americans? The initially proposed name of the mosque — Cordoba House — undermines claims that it will be used to promote interfaith peace and understanding. Evidently, Bloomberg wasn’t listening in history class when they talked about the bloody Muslim conquest of Cordoba, Spain, in 711.
The New York Times, whose Eighth Avenue headquarters sits on land forcibly seized by the city from 55 business owners, argued in the 2005 editorial “The Limits of Property Rights” that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision was “a welcome vindication of cities’ ability to act in the public interest.” Yet, the Gray Lady now insists that kowtowing to the mosque was “not just the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do.”
That’s utter nonsense. Local governments everywhere in America routinely regulate location and construction of religious facilities without impinging on the First Amendment right to worship. There are volumes of federal, state and local historic preservation laws that could be invoked to force the mosque to move to a different site.
We hope Bloomberg accepts Newt Gingrich’s invitation to debate the issue. Maybe then the mayor will explain why he disdains historic preservation of the area immediately around the site of the worst domestic attack in American history.