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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mosque Landmark Status Rejected; Legal Challenges To Come

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission just voted unanimously to decline to grant landmark status to two buildings, one block from Ground Zero, which their owner intends to convert into a mosque.

Despite the vote, some commissioners' remarks provide support for a continued fight, this one assuredly in court. Commissioners acknowledged the historical value of the building, with one remarking that the building (47 Park Place) was of landmark quality if it were within a landmark district. (Here's the rub: it's not in a landmark district.).

The commissioners also remarked -- curiously -- that the surrounding area was not of the quality to be considered a landmark district. Yet almost all commissioners acknowledged the great historical significance of 9/11.

Some press are asking protestors about the issue of freedom of religion. I believe this to be both a false argument and to underscore the journalists' lack of understanding of a basic constitutional issue. Freedom of religion is a freedom from state incursion; not only is that absent here, and the Muslim congregation has presently been practicing for decades about one mile away, but the state actions (to approve the construction) implicate the principle of separation of church and state and thus raise Establishment Clause issues, in my opinion.

Now the fun starts. 

UPDATE:  On Wednesday, August 4th, keep your ears peeled for a lawsuit to be either announced or filed.  UPDATE 2:  On Wednesday, as expected the American Center for Law and Justice filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court on behalf of plaintiff-firefighter Tim Brown.

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