New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks on the proposed mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan

On Tuesday August 3 2010, Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined NYC City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and religious leaders from across New York City at an event on Governor’s Island. He spoke about the importance of religious freedom and the great tradition of tolerance and diversity that has characterized New York City since its founding.

“We have come here to Governors Island to stand where the earliest settlers first set foot in New Amsterdam, and where the seeds of religious tolerance were first planted. We’ve come here to see the inspiring symbol of liberty that, more than 250 years later, would greet millions of immigrants in the harbor, and we come here to state as strongly as ever – this is the freest City in the world. That’s what makes New York special and different and strong.

“Our doors are open to everyone – everyone with a dream and a willingness to work hard and play by the rules. New York City was built by immigrants, and it is sustained by immigrants – by people from more than a hundred different countries speaking more than two hundred different languages and professing every faith. And whether your parents were born here, or you came yesterday, you are a New Yorker.

“We may not always agree with every one of our neighbors. That’s life and it’s part of living in such a diverse and dense city. But we also recognize that part of being a New Yorker is living with your neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance. It was exactly that spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11.

“On that day, 3,000 people were killed because some murderous fanatics didn’t want us to enjoy the freedom to profess our own faiths, to speak our own minds, to follow our own dreams and to live our own lives.

“Of all our precious freedoms, the most important may be the freedom to worship as we wish. And it is a freedom that, even here in a City that is rooted in Dutch tolerance, was hard-won over many years. In the mid-1650s, the small Jewish community living in Lower Manhattan petitioned Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant for the right to build a synagogue – and they were turned down.

“In 1657, when Stuyvesant also prohibited Quakers from holding meetings, a group of non-Quakers in Queens signed the Flushing Remonstrance, a petition in defense of the right of Quakers and others to freely practice their religion. It was perhaps the first formal, political petition for religious freedom in the American colonies – and the organizer was thrown in jail and then banished from New Amsterdam.

“In the 1700s, even as religious freedom took hold in America, Catholics in New York were effectively prohibited from practicing their religion – and priests could be arrested. Largely as a result, the first Catholic parish in New York City was not established until the 1780’s – St. Peter’s on Barclay Street, which still stands just one block north of the World Trade Center site and one block south of the proposed mosque and community center.

“This morning, the City’s Landmark Preservation Commission unanimously voted not to extend landmark status to the building on Park Place where the mosque and community center are planned. The decision was based solely on the fact that there was little architectural significance to the building. But with or without landmark designation, there is nothing in the law that would prevent the owners from opening a mosque within the existing building. The simple fact is this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship.

“The government has no right whatsoever to deny that right – and if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question – should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another.

“The World Trade Center Site will forever hold a special place in our City, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves – and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans – if we said ‘no’ to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.

“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values – and play into our enemies’ hands – if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists – and we should not stand for that.

“For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime – as important a test – and it is critically important that we get it right.

“On September 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked ‘What God do you pray to?’ ‘What beliefs do you hold?’

“The attack was an act of war – and our first responders defended not only our City but also our country and our Constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights – and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.

“Of course, it is fair to ask the organizers of the mosque to show some special sensitivity to the situation – and in fact, their plan envisions reaching beyond their walls and building an interfaith community. By doing so, it is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our City even closer together and help repudiate the false and repugnant idea that the attacks of 9/11 were in any way consistent with Islam. Muslims are as much a part of our City and our country as the people of any faith and they are as welcome to worship in Lower Manhattan as any other group. In fact, they have been worshipping at the site for the better part of a year, as is their right.

“The local community board in Lower Manhattan voted overwhelming to support the proposal and if it moves forward, I expect the community center and mosque will add to the life and vitality of the neighborhood and the entire City.

“Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure – and there is no neighborhood in this City that is off limits to God’s love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us today can attest.”

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Comments

  1. This is a no brainer. To allow the protesters who are against the Mosque, those that wrap themselves in 9/11 rhetoric, have there way, is wrong. What makes them any different from the people who carried out the act? This is the United States of America, where we are all one. Those that protest, do so in ignorance. To condemn a Religion for the acts of a few, then perhaps it would be fitting to do so for all religions for the acts of their members. If that’s the case, then everybody is guilty, with no exceptions.

  2. To allow the Mosque is to allow the enemy to plant a flag of victory on our soil.
    Bloomberg’s rhetoric about religious freedom has no place here. It is just a diversion.
    Anyone who thinks that the enemies are only those who carried out the heinous act is
    missing the big picture. Where were you Norman, on 9/11??
    As usual, the general public will never know the real story behind this outrage.
    Seems when this great Country is not being bought out, it is being sold out!!

  3. As you read many of the blogs and emails that make the rounds on the web, you are lead to believe that the founding fathers did not intend for there to be a separation of church and state. I found the letter below from George Washington to the United Baptist Churches of Virginia (May 1, 1789) to be very enlightening to the thoughts of the framers of the constitution. Letter reads as follows…

    Volume: The Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, 2 Pages: 423-425

    Gentlemen,

    I request that you will accept my best acknowledgments for your congratulation on my appointment to the first office in the nation. The kind manner in which you mention my past conduct equally claims the expression of my gratitude.

    After we had, by the smiles of Heaven on our exertions, obtained the object for which we contended, I retired at the conclusion of the war, with an idea that my country could have no farther occasion for my services, and with the intention of never entering again into public life: But when the exigence of my country seemed to require me once more to engage in public affairs, an honest conviction of duty superseded my former resolution, and became my apology for deviating from the happy plan which I had adopted.

    If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution framed in the Convention, where I had the honor to preside, might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical Society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it; and if I could now conceive that the general Government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution—For you, doubtless, remember that I have often expressed my sentiment, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.

    While I recollect with satisfaction that the religious Society of which you are Members, have been, throughout America, uniformly, and almost unanimously, the firm friends to civil liberty, and the persevering Promoters of our glorious revolution; I cannot hesitate to believe that they will be the faithful Supporters of a free, yet efficient general Government. Under this pleasing expectation I rejoice to assure them that they may rely on my best wishes and endeavors to advance their prosperity.

    In the meantime be assured, Gentlemen, that I entertain a proper sense of your fervent supplications to God for my temporal and eternal happiness.

    G. Washington

  4. To Data 1, Why don’t you post your name, your birth name? Is it because your not really anything other than a shill, a troll, just one of those keyboarders? What have you done for “Your Country”. Maybe you’re a Tea Bager, probably in the true sense of the word? You ask me where I’m at on 9/11? Tell us, what are you bona fides? Did you serve in the Military service of your Country? Have you sacrificed? Are you a veteran of anything else besides keyboarding? Tell us, so that we can judge your comments.

  5. To Austin, Apparently you do not agree with the Constitution of the United States as it was written? You would rather it read like the various definitions that the right wing/ church reformists would like it to be? Why are you taking this road? Do you really believe the words you post? You should really step back before you post these words. This is the 21st Century, not everybody feels that we should go back wards, that progress should return to what some people discern to be the truth as they see it. There are many religions in this Country, not just the Baptists. To believe that only one is the true answer, then you are stuck in “Lodi” while everybody else is in the now.

  6. Oscar Palacios says:

    It was indeed a good speech. However, terrorists were not only attacking religious freedom:

    http://www.juancole.com/2009/01/al-fakhoura-school-bombed-42-killed.html

    They were, in fact, attacking symbols of American power.

  7. To Norman About Austin says:

    Norman, did you even read, or understand, what Austin posted? Washington clearly supported freedom of religion. “No one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny.” “I have often expressed my sentiment, that every man, … ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.”

    “You should really step back before you post these words.” – You

  8. Michael Renner says:

    This is addressed to “Data1″: To paraphrase your unwarranted rant, your hostile rhetoric has no place here. War in Context stands out as offering intelligent arguments instead of unsubstantiated accusations and guilt-by-association denunciations. If you can’t offer a reasoned comment, then I sure hope that this will have been you last post on this site.

  9. I can’t understand why people are getting upset about a mosque near the WTC site. It’s an amazing gesture that would prove how much better we are than our enemies because of our tolerance and ability to overcome obstacles. Unfortunately, the religious right has twisted this into a battle of good v. evil and shown a growing problem for the U.S. Even if you’re ignorant enough to hate all Muslims, isn’t putting a mosque near the site the ultimate ‘f*** you’ to them?

    Also, Data1, the only “real story” here is that there are thousands and thousands of Muslims living in NYC who are not terrorists, work incredibly hard, and did not do anything wrong. In fact, most of them were victims of the same Islamophobia you are exhibiting here. Many of them were spat on, cursed at, and beaten up after the attacks because a lot of people let their anger get the better of them. These people stand behind hot dog carts for 16 hours a day for just a look at the American dream.