The recent controversy over plans to develop a Mosque and community center in the "ground zero" area of Manhattan is very poignant reminder of just how far we have yet to go in terms of the protection of religious liberties in this country, but also a proclamation in some ways of how far we have come. On the one hand, we see angry and outraged protesters being egged on by opportunistic politicians seeking to fan the fires of bigotry and fear for their own political gain. The ADL, in a decision that is disappointing to say the least, has unfortunately joined this effort in a move that puts a lie to its own history of defending religious tolerance.
On the other hand, Mayor Bloomberg is standing tall for the principles of liberty and equality before the law for all Americans by standing with the supporters of the project, which include not only the Community Board representing the area in which it is proposed, but responsible religious leaders of every faith and the majority of the people who live in the downtown area.
Religious liberty and the right to worship where and how one wishes is one of the foundational liberties on which this nation is built. The unspeakable acts of September 11, 2001 were an attack on those foundational liberties by a group of terrorists who would deny those rights to anyone who does not think or worship as they do. In addition to the many other of their fellow Americans, about 200 Muslim-Americans died in the World Trade Center attacks. What more fitting tribute to what this nation stands for than a Mosque to be built alongside of the churches and synagogues already in the area. Those who oppose this effort are fighting against those very liberties that the heroes of 911 died to protect. They have missed the point and their actions are un-patriotic, inconsistent with the faith traditions of Christianity and Judaism among others, and misguided and simply wrong. The peace center at the new Mosque will hopefully become another place of dialogue, understanding and hope. It deserves the kind of courageous support that the Mayor and the people of downtown Manhattan are giving it. We all need to support it as well.