The New York City Bar Association’s President, Samuel W. Seymour, issued a statement last week supporting Mayor Bloomberg’s decision not to try to stop the controversial Muslim community center from opening near the World Trade Center:
“We are concerned with the efforts to chill the exercise of First Amendment rights of members of the Muslim community who seek to build the Park51 Islamic Cultural Center near the World Trade Center site. As there appears to be no legal impediment to building Park51, we applaud Mayor Bloomberg for his decision not to interfere with the siting of the center. The law should not be contorted to infringe upon the lawful exercise of religion. Freedom of religion is one of the cornerstones of our Constitution and our democratic traditions; indeed it is what brought many of this nation’s early settlers to our shores, and millions more since. The concepts of tolerance and religious freedom are deeply embedded in our legal system. Our nation is the stronger, both internally and in its standing in the world, for preserving religious freedom.”
As a lawyer, and a supporter of both freedom of religion and of property rights, I think this is an excellent statement to have issued.
The New York Law Journal reports on politicians’ attempts to tiptoe around the issue of where they stand on the mosque; the WSJ has the test of Mayor Bloomberg’s non-tiptoeing speech in support of the mosque.
And here is the Economist making the point that “much of the opposition to the Park51 project flows from a general uneasiness about Islam, and that the argument that it is offensively provocative is to a significant extent cover for less noble sentiments…[T]he hubbub over the Park51 project has revealed the anxiety of an American public increasingly convinced that theirs is a culture too fragile for unfettered religious freedom.”