Earlier, I discussed Sarah Palin’s comments about the mosque (here). Today, there is an article by Jeffrey Goldberg about the Anti-Defamation League’s opposition to the mosque. Regardless of whether the mosque should be opposed or supported, I don’t understand how the ADL could oppose it. Their whole purpose is to take that side of the argument.
I think the best argument against the mosque is that the location is controversial (I’d get rid of the word “painful”), and therefore, one might conclude it is inappropriate. Even unjustifiably controversial projects may have negative effects, which might make the whole thing inappropriate. Also, while everyone has a right to be considered for such projects without bigotry, nobody has a right to a favorable decision. The decision is a matter of public preference, not individual rights. If the decision-makers feel public preference would be better served at a location a mile away, a non-discriminatory decision to reject would be hard to criticize.
But I still the think this best argument has some weaknesses: 1) it’s not automatic that controversy = inappropriate and 2) anti-Muslim discrimination is still an open question.
1) I don’t believe a controversial project is necessarily inappropriate for city approval.
Almost everything is at least somewhat controversial to somebody. Also, the main controversy here is simply because it’s a Muslim center. Every faith is, by definition, unproven and controversial. I don’t see how that makes this mosque inappropriate. Plus, even if it seems a bit controversial now, that might pass with time, and this center might survive hundreds of years beyond that.
2) I agree with everyone in this country that we should go to any just lengths to comfort the victims/families of 9/11. But, it’s an important question whether these lengths would be just. We could argue that ruling against the mosque, if we wouldn’t rule against any other religion’s house of worship, is discriminatory, and we shouldn’t discriminate against one group in the protection of another group. Maybe the decision-makers wouldn’t find the mosque objectionable, but might still oppose it because people in the community objected to it. Would that distinction make the final decision less discriminatory? Maybe, if the board had a policy to defer in all decisions to the judgment of the public, and saw themselves as mere delegates of public opinion. I assume that isn’t true. I assume they generally impose their own views. So any discrimination lies with that board, and it’s at least arguable.