Religious Liberty Lesson in New York

Mayor Bloomberg reminds New York that it wasn’t always an embracing city:

“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.

5 thoughts on “Religious Liberty Lesson in New York

  1. I have mixed feelings about this mosque at ground zero. I don’t think the Cordoba Initiative should be legally prevented from building their mosque at that location. There’s nothing morally wrong about building it there. But I think it’s in VERY bad taste, and only serves to rile people up.

    In one of the few instances when I wholeheartedly agreed with Abe Foxman, head of the ADL, he said on NPR this morning that while the imam who’s behind the project is a moderate Muslim, part of being moderate is understanding and respecting other people’s positions on sensitive issues, and not to unnecessarily inflame people’s passions or cause other people emotional pain. And that’s exactly what’s happening here.

    • This imam is dedicated to mutual understanding. Abe Foxman is dedicated to issuing press releases and getting himself in the news. And it isn’t “at Ground Zero.” It’s blocks away. A piece of debris happened to fall on the building, which is why the extremists wanted to declare it a “national landmark.” They aren’t “building” a mosque there, they are using space in an existing building for a center devoted to peace and understanding.

      And who is really behind the opposition? It isn’t victims’ groups (Muslims were among the victims). Follow the money. Who is the organized opposition?

  2. I agree that Foxman is an attention hog. I agree that the push to make the building they wanted to use a national landmark was dumb. And I know exactly where all the money for the agitators is coming from.

    But it’s two blocks away, not completely out of the way as you suggest. They do plan on removing much of that building and putting in a community center which will include a gym, pool, and other items in addition to creating an Islamic prayer space (which, if it were Christian, I would call a chapel. If I were Muslim, I would call it a . . . what?). That’s not from a news organization — that’s from their website.

    Like I said, I’m all for encouraging moderation and dialogue with Muslims. I’m just not sure I think this is a good way to start.

  3. Well, the Saudis seem to think a Christian chapel in their country in quite the threat.🙂

    Seriously though, I don’t think the folks at Cordoba Initiative are a threat themselves. But the imam in charge has made statements to the effect that he has wanted to put an Islamic center at or near Ground Zero for a few years. As I said in my first post, I don’t think they should be prevented from going through with their plans. I just question the wisdom of it right now.

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