Government Shouldn't Prevent Construction of Ground Zero Mosque

It was a conflicting set of arguments being mirrored across the nation. My friend and author at Outside the Beltway, attorney Doug Mataconis, recently put up a question on Twitter, pointing out that there are two strip clubs closer to Ground Zero than the proposed mosque site, and isn’t that more offensive to the hallowed ground? It’s a titillating query (pardon the intentional pun), but I have to disagree with the fundamental premise on two points. First, I like strip clubs. And second, municipalities have a lot more leeway in banning adult entertainment enterprises, should they wish to do so, than a house of worship.

Other pundits have been quick to note that it’s not always about the law in such an emotionally charged subject. The proprietor of Ladies Logic pointed out that the hoi polloi will often have a hard time thinking like constitutional scholars at a time like this, saying, “a church or synagogue built in this place (Ground Zero) would not get a second thought. ... However, neither radical Christians nor radical Jews flew airplanes into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11.”

In the end, that’s what the kerfuffle over the mosque seems to boil down to. You can talk about the questionable background of the imam leading the project or the insensitivity of the location, but eventually the question comes back to the law. If we are to push back on this construction project, who will do the pushing and what tools are at their disposal?

Any individual (or massive group thereof) should be able to protest the location and make their displeasure known to the project’s sponsors. In particular, we might wonder where the voices of New York’s large and mostly moderate Muslim community have gone. In the interest of harmony in the community, might they not push for a less controversial location? If such measures are effective and the builders decide to relocate, the story comes to an end. But since they show no signs of moving to less objectionable digs uptown, where do the protesters go from there?

Assuming we won’t be calling for pitchforks and torches, the only other available avenue would be the courts. And at that point, no matter how many complex tales you choose to weave around this situation, you’re asking the government to step in and prevent the construction of a place of worship. Phrases leap to mind which include, “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Yes, there were Muslims involved in the 9/11 attacks. But were they these Muslims? There have been imams in the background getting up to who knows what business. But are any of the individuals involved with the construction of this facility charged with a crime? If the answers to these questions are no, it seems that the courts will have a tough row to hoe in satisfying the public complaint.

But hey ... it’s the summer season for politics and everyone wants a slice of the pie. And besides, those unemployment figures and deficit totals make for a pretty boring read at the beach.