Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 10, 2010

CORDOBA HOUSE 'COMPROMISE' HAS SOME SERIOUS FLAWS.... New York Gov. David Paterson (D), hoping to resolve the political dispute over the proposed Muslim community center in lower Manhattan, is floating a possible compromise.

Paterson agreed that there is "no reason" why the Cordoba House shouldn't be built at the site known as Park51. But in light of political response from conservatives, the governor is open to state intervention to help explore alternatives. "Frankly, if the sponsors were looking for property anywhere at a distance that would be such that it would accommodate a better feeling among the people who are frustrated," Paterson said, "I would look into trying to provide them with the state property they would need."

A whole host of reasons come to mind as to why this is a bad idea. Greg Sargent highlights some of the more glaring problems.

First, it puts Mayor Bloomberg in a weird spot. The mayor, you may recall, eloquently defended the religious freedom of the developers and stood up for their right to build on a site of their choosing in the face of withering national criticism. Now the governor's position is that, yes, there's something to that religious freedom thing, but let's give away some state land to make the whole mess go away? What is Bloomberg supposed to say in response? I'm told City Hall won't be commenting on the governor's idea.

Second, let's say for the sake of argument that the center's developers would support this scheme. Who gets to decide how far away from Ground Zero is an appropriate distance, and why should they be accorded that power? Should the governor appoint Sarah Palin or Abraham Foxman to a newly-created post of Mosque Exclusion Zone Czar?

Third, this sets an awful precedent. Other religious groups in New York will be asking why they aren't being given state land to build their own cultural centers. Will the state cheerfully throw free land at the next group whose plans spark controversy?

I'd add just one that Greg missed: it might very well be unconstitutional.

Constitutional law experts can speak to this with far more authority than I can, but as I recall from my years at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, houses of worship and centers built by faith groups are private property -- as they should be.

As part of a religiously-neutral government, courts don't necessarily look kindly at states handing over public land for the construction of private religious facilities. To be sure, New York could sell the developers of the Cordoba House state land for their community center, but it couldn't show them any favoritism against other groups that might want to purchase the same property, and it certainly couldn't "provide them with the state property they would need."

Besides, part of the point of the particular Park51 site is for Feisal Abdul Rauf and his partners to cater to a local community. If they wanted a property in some other part of New York, they wouldn't be trying to purchase this spot.

Paterson's compromise may be well intended, but it's a step in the wrong direction.

Steve Benen 4:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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Comments

Something about not seeing past the end of his nose comes to mind.

Truly, Spitzer should have never resigned.

Posted by: doubtful on August 10, 2010 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

This whole thing is so fucking stupid.

It's a complete non-issue ginned up by a cabal of bigoted hatemongers like Pam Geller and Peter King.

I hope the people who own that building and want to build their cultural center just go ahead and do it. It's the right thing to do and it hurts no one.

And yes, I'm a New Yorker. I saw the towers burning with my own eyes. And frankly, I don't give a damn who builds what where.

Posted by: Gummo on August 10, 2010 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Brilliant, just brilliant. The State gives the land to the muslim group, and the ACLU sues to stop them. Thus tying it up in court for years, making the ACLU the bad guys and giving the nutjobs exactly what they want.

Who know bigots could be so creative?

Posted by: martin on August 10, 2010 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK


I've wondered the same thing. How close is too close?

3 blocks, a mile, anywhere in NYC?

The thing won't even be in sight of the where the towers were.

Posted by: agave on August 10, 2010 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

More caving in to the dextronaughts (like Sherrod, ACORN - when is that group going to get justice?), and we need less of that not more.

BTW how is the Sherrod suit v. Breitbart going?

Posted by: neil b on August 10, 2010 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Paterson agreed that there is "no reason" why the Cordoba House shouldn't be built at the site known as Park51.

And he should have stopped there.

What a disappointingly spineless performance from yet another milquetoast Democrat -- "maybe we should appease those screaming bigots!." And it's particularly baffling in the wake of Bloomberg showing how to do it right.

Posted by: Gregory on August 10, 2010 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Paterson agreed that there is "no reason" why the Cordoba House shouldn't be built at the site known as Park51. But in light of political response from conservatives, the governor is open to state intervention to help explore alternatives."

Doesn't this say it all? "[I]n light of political response from conservatives," Paterson will look to compromise on an issue that requires no concession. Everyone knows the GOP wouldn't do this if the roles were reversed. The thought of it would generate derision.

After Bloomberg's brilliant and eloquent response, he pulls this crap. This kind of fearful response happens WAY too much in our party.

Posted by: bdop4 on August 10, 2010 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

At least, they're consistent in trying to appease and compromise with the conservatives whenever these bigots oppose something. Another short-sighted idea which proves once more just how irrelevant and low-caliber Paterson is.

Posted by: Dan @ DCA Parking on August 10, 2010 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

And fourth -- and by far the most serious in my view -- it makes you and me less safe by giving yet MORE anti-American PR ammo to the murderous jihadists.

Posted by: Jasper on August 10, 2010 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

If they wanted a property in some other part of New York, they wouldn't be trying to purchase this spot.

They own this spot.

Posted by: shortstop on August 10, 2010 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

New York Gov. David Paterson (D), hoping to resolve the political dispute...

And also, what dispute? I thought I read the relevant authority in NY had green-lighted the project a few days ago. What you really mean, Benen, is placating bigots, not "resolving" a "dispute."

Or perhaps the center does still face legal hurdles? Maybe I'm wrong.

Posted by: Jasper on August 10, 2010 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

To be sure, New York could sell the developers of the Cordoba House state land for their community center, but it couldn't show them any favoritism

After this spring's Salazar v. Buono ruling, are you sure that's still the law? /snark.

Posted by: zeitgeist on August 10, 2010 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Paterson's the lamest of lame ducks.

I'm told City Hall won't be commenting on the governor's idea.

Precisely. Ignore him, and perhaps he'll get the hint.

Posted by: DJ on August 10, 2010 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Re "Paterson's compromise may be well intended"

If someone tries to stop a black family from moving into a white neighborhood by offering to help them find a house somewhere else, is that "well intended"?

Posted by: Eric Jaffa on August 10, 2010 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Compromise with whom?
Newt Gingrich?, Sarah Palin? You can't offer a compromise on behalf of another party that is fully and legally justified in building on their own property and the rabble rousers and demagogues have no interest in any rational discussion. Like the health care bill, Democrats and progressives keep compromising with themselves when their true adversaries have no interest in any resolution whether the "problem" is real or contrived!

Posted by: GreenTaxmaven on August 10, 2010 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Build it. That's why I am here.

'memba?

Posted by: Anchor Baby on August 10, 2010 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

The state and city should butt out. The zoning board approved the site, as is their function. State money shouldn't go toward the construction of any religious institution, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Wiccan.

Posted by: Joe Buck on August 10, 2010 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

As part of a religiously-neutral government, courts don't necessarily look kindly at states handing over public land for the construction of private religious facilities

I went to college at a Jesuit university that was created through Federal land grants. There are literally hundreds of such institutions across the country. So there are precedents for state and federal agencies ceding land for religious instutions.

Posted by: thorin-1 on August 10, 2010 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK
Will the state cheerfully throw free land at the next group whose plans spark controversy?

I sure as hell hope so. Because if the state gets into that business, I'm going to start plans for Satanic Cultist community center. Preferably right across the street from a Catholic elementary school. Is it only New York that's going to be this stupid, or can I get free land from a state with better weather?

Posted by: libdevil on August 10, 2010 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, Patterson is pathetic.

Posted by: thorin-1 on August 10, 2010 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Paterson decides to bring back "separate but equal?"

Posted by: billb on August 10, 2010 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Generally speaking, appeasing the crazies is the wrong path to take.

But of course, there's always a sucker for such idiocy. And who better than the wildly unpopular governor of New York!!

Posted by: Whispers on August 10, 2010 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Paterson is an idiot.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on August 10, 2010 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking as a New Yorker, who spent years working in the financial district (blocks from both the trade center and the proposed Park 51 site), I think that Gov. Patterson needs to drink a tall, cold glass of STFU.

There simply is no place for this type of intolerance

I am no Bloomberg fan, but his words on this issue made me proud of him. Patterson, on the other hand is an unelected, lame duck idiot with nearly historically low ratings among NY Democrats and even among African-American voters like myself. I By the way, I was quite pleased that the White House had the foresight to ask him to move on, rather than simply supporting him in the primary.


The folks in the area have spoken and have nearly unanimously given their consent to the proposed community center and the bigoted protest over this center. Besides, many of the people who are speaking out "on behalf" of the 9/11 families, including the "Quitta from Wassilla",don't give a rats @ss about NY, or New Yorkers.

Moreover, some of the actual 9/11 families involved in this protest IMHO, have no interest in anything at all being built anywhere near the World Trade Center site. While I sympathize with their plight, the entire downtown area cannot become a memorial site. And giving into anti-Islam sentiment will not bring their loved ones back, nor will it bring the City any healing.

For the sake of all New Yorkers, we must all move on and rebuild the site as soon as we can.

Posted by: MJ on August 10, 2010 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you, Steve. It is a wholly inappropriate suggestion on church-state grounds. I am not even willing to grant that it is well-intended. It is FEAR intended. Bloomberg showed courage and leadership; Paterson is pandering to the worst of us.

Posted by: Algernon on August 10, 2010 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

I once had some sympathy for Paterson, but with this bonehead move, he has lost me. I am so sick and tired of this controversy, it's NOT a mosque, it's a community center which will apparently include a small prayer space, and who the hell are these people to take offense on behalf of 3000 dead souls?? Not all Muslims are terrorists, of course, but the conservative side would have you believe otherwise. This affair will end badly, and I hold the right wing in this country responsible.

Posted by: Xenocrates on August 10, 2010 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

any word on who asked him? What a dork. Don't help, Dave!

Posted by: m2 on August 10, 2010 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

God, Paterson is so incompetent. I will never forgive Elliot Spencer.

I'm a New Yorker, too, and I am drifting from annoyance to outrage that this thing has become such an issue. Every variant of the argument against Cordoba I've read, including Abe Foxman's craven "be sensitive" feint, boils down to Muslim = terrorist. That's not only an idiotic false equivalence, it's unshirted xenophobia.

For pity's sake, would *anybody* claim that we'd be having a conversation anything like this if it had been fundamentalist *Christian* loons who had flown into the towers? Would anyone be suggesting that it'd be insensitive to build an Episcopal church at Ground Zero, if the terrorists had been Branch Davidians?

The only right response here was Bloomberg's: bitch if you want, but they're Americans, they're New Yorkers, and they have a right to build here. Paterson, what a spectacular wanker.

Posted by: piminnowcheez on August 10, 2010 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who has read any history, except Gingrich perhaps, knows that for centuries Cordoba was a city in Spain that was tolerant, had a peaceful coexistence between Muslims, Jews and Christians, was a center of learning, art and architecture. This was a high point of the Medieval period before the Christian Crusades ended it all. The choice of 'Cordoba House' therefore is no accident. It seeks to recall the tolerance and peace coexistence of three major religions.

The Neanderthal bigots screaming about insensitivity should be ignored, and called out for what they are.

Posted by: rrk1 on August 10, 2010 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Obama sets the tone for Democrats to be basically fearful of "doing the right thing" on issue, after issue, after issue. Health care, stimulus package, job creation, BP, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, financial reform, false accusations of racism, gay marriage, climate change, military budget, gays in the military,etc.etc, etc. Makes Republicans look courageous.

Dems have only themselves to blame for their non-actions. Current state of minimal-job creation is an excellent example. Frightened Democrats think spending is unpopular -- but high unemployment and an economy moving in the wrong direction is more unpopular. Republicans have Dems so rattled, they're afraid of the disease and the cure. So they do nothing. Which is the MOST unpopular response.

A progressive challenge to Obama is desperately needed.

Posted by: gdb on August 10, 2010 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

A progressive challenge to Obama is desperately needed.
Posted by: gdb on August 10, 2010 at 8:19 PM

Well... What's stopping *you* from running on a flaming progressive platform? Also... I know that, to some people, all them blacks look the same, but Paterson is *not* Obama (and vice versa)

Posted by: exlibra on August 10, 2010 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

Steve -- I really like your blog, but you go off the rails way too often with legal issues. Isn't there some lawyer friend you can bounce this stuff off first?

It might very well be an Establishment Clause violation for a state to give land to a religious entity; the problem is, who gets to sue? Taxpayers only have standing to challenge a) Establishment Clause violations that b) are exercises of taxing & spending authority. The Supreme Court denied taxpayers the ability to sue for land grants in Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464 (1982). So even if it's a violation of the Establishment Clause, no one can challenge it.

tl;dr: Icky and stupid? Yeah. Unconstitutional? Maybe. Reviewable? Nope.

Posted by: Mike on August 10, 2010 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

David Patterson is now officially the dumbest moron to ever sit in the Governor's Office in the State of New York.

Does this blithering idiot have any slight clue what caving in to the American Nazis will do? Does he think he can appease them with this? Perhaps he should look again at the history of trying to appease Nazis.

This guy is the living emobodiment of the Right's campaign against affirmative action, as a policy that puts incompetents in positions they don't deserve, based on their race. How did this guy ever get as far as he did in politics? He's dumb enough, he should be a Republican!

Posted by: TCinLA on August 11, 2010 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

Oddly enough, this discussion makes me even more proud to be an American. Look how far we've come! Today in America, we can rightfully call a black man (David Paterson, Michael Steele) a blithering idiot without playing the race card. Likewise, we can honestly call a woman (Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle) a blithering idiot without playing the gender card. (I exclude Michelle Bachmann on the grounds that she is not so much blithering as just barking mad and a raving lunatic.) I look forward to the day when we can call a Latino, Asian, or gay person a blithering idiot as well. (If I have overlooked someone who fits that description, please advise.)

God, I love this country!

Posted by: Thisby on August 11, 2010 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

So if this plan goes through and the mosque is give land somewhere that meets the standards of the bigots and hate mongers are we to assume then that the bigots and hate mongers will then be in an official deciding position on who can build what on the former World Trade Center location?

Posted by: SaintZak on August 11, 2010 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

I look forward to the day when we can call a Latino, Asian, or gay person a blithering idiot as well. (If I have overlooked someone who fits that description, please advise.)

Well, as to the first one, we could go with Alberto Gonzales or Marco Rubio, right? The second: how about John Yoo? The third: Andrew Sullivan.

See? It's not that difficult.

Posted by: JT Orlando on August 11, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

"I've wondered the same thing. How close is too close?"

According to the traitor-crackers, Murfeesboro TN is too close.

Posted by: phalamir on August 11, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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