Friday, August 6, 2010

Landmarks Preservation Commission Clears Way for Ground Zero Mosque, New York's Elected Officials Uncharacteristically Silent

In atypical fashion, many of New York's national elected officials have kept mum on the decision by New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission to not grant 45-47 Park Place landmark status, clearing the way for what has been dubbed the "Ground Zero Mosque." In reality, the Cordoba House will be a multi-functional building with a mosque in it. Additionally, Muslim prayer groups have been meeting at the current building since last year with no trouble at all. Nate and I have already talked about our feelings on the mosque.

What I want to discuss today is the lack of dialogue coming from the left in defense of prohibiting government from intruding on religious affairs. Capital New York has a great piece today on the elected officials from New York who have kept uncharacteristically quiet on the subject, even after Mayor Bloomberg's speech.

New York's two senators, Kirstin Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, put out weak statements of semi-support. Reps. Nadler, Maloney, and Serrano put out decent statements of support. Most disappointingly Reps. Yvette Clark, Michael McMahon, Nydia Velazquez, Gregory Meeks, Joe Crowley, Edolphus Towns, Eliot Engel, Charles Rangel, and (most surprisingly) Anthony Weiner had nothing to say about it. Now the argument could be made that they did not feel the need to comment because the mosque is not in their district, but the reality of the situation is that this has been made into a national issue and requires national dialogue, which would naturally include New York's elected officials.

What their silence has done, as Mark Hay pointed out in his Capital New York piece, is that the right gets to talk ad nauseum about the mosque, unopposed. This is unacceptable. The mosque's opponents' premise is that some fanatical Muslims perpetrated 9/11 so no Muslims should be able to have a house of worship near that site. Using this logic, no Catholics should have a church near an elementary school because some of their priests used their status in the church to get near kids and molest them. But both are ridiculous statements to make. Do radical Muslims in Al Qaeda represent Islam? Do pedophile priests represent Catholicism? For those slow on the uptake, the answer is a resounding no.

I understand it's an election year, but I expect a little more push-back when something as important as the First Amendment is involved. We've got people calling for Saudi Arabian rules to be enacted in Lower Manhattan and Community Board 1 and the LPC stand up to this type ignorance and hate and only a select few of New York's elected officials has their back? I have to imagine that our elected officials can do better than that, even in an election year.

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