Mayor Bloomberg gets it right

On Tuesday, August 3, Mayor Bloomberg held what could be a historic press conference to defend the plan to build a mosque just several hundred feet from Ground Zero.  He began by recounting a tale of religious tolerance that took place in New York City in the 1650s before progressing to a more relevant issue: private property rights.

“The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship.  And the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right.”

You might think it would be difficult to find prominent political commentators – especially from the right – who disagree with the sentiment that government has absolutely no right to prohibit a private organization from using justly acquired private property for whatever lawful purposes they desire.  But you would be wrong.

The following night, Bill O’Reilly hosted Dennis Miller on his show.  The pair discussed their objections to the construction of the new mosque and Mayor Bloomberg’s comments.  From the beginning, the duo completely misinterpreted Bloomberg’s defense of the mosque, and the discussion further divorced itself from reason and coherence as it continued.

I’ll skip over Miller’s opening comments that refer to the supposedly inevitable execution of homosexual Muslims that will occur at that very mosque – which, in addition to its inaccuracy, is something that Miller would struggle to substantiate – and his assertion that “they have decap[itation] on speed dial, down there.” In an attempt to combine three separate metaphors into one pithy zinger, Miller simply sets the precedent for absurd and incoherent arguments made throughout the interview.

Sensing the awkwardness of Miller’s attempt at humor, O’Reilly asserts that the Muslim community is seeking tolerance from their fellow New Yorkers in order to proceed with the construction of their temple.  It is not evident that the religious group initially had any intention of seeking religious tolerance from anyone; what they sought was a building permit, and the legal right to maintain property justly acquired.  The issue in contention, therefore, is property rights in a country whose Constitution firmly establishes government’s inability to prefer one religion over another.  If a Protestant church could be built on that same site, so can a mosque.

It’s rather alarming that a news host drawing millions of nightly viewers, and a self-proclaimed “traditionalist”, can so easily overlook the importance of our founding documents’ emphasis on preventing government from interfering with private interactions, including the acquisition of property.  This interview casts considerable doubt on the durability of O’Reilly’s principles and his understanding of limited government.  To him, freedom from government control does not apply to those who share, in such proximity as to be distinct in all practical purposes, a loose set of beliefs with fanatics living several thousand miles and 9 years apart.

The host also notes disapprovingly that Bloomberg defines this issue as one of “rights, or freedom of religion,” (and who really needs those, after all) but then purports to pinpoint the reality of all this, that it’s “a sensitivity issue.”  Apparently, Bloomberg “just hasn’t thought it out” because he has not yet come to the conclusion that property rights are irrelevant and insignificant in comparison to the more important protections from “insensitive” symbolism.

The separation of church and state relies on the ability of defenders of liberty to disregard the sect of the church involved.  The greatness of American government, including the establishment clause and private property rights, is diminished when passion and circumstance outweigh our founding principles.  Miller’s claim that Bloomberg’s fear of being “blown up” underlies his defense of the mosque ignores the reasoning actually invoked, one of the bedrock principles on which our founders established this country and distinguished it from almost any other at the time.

Ironically, the construction of a Muslim house of worship two blocks from Ground Zero would be the most powerful rebuke to Islamic fundamentalism, indicating a commitment to economic and theocratic freedom that cannot be infringed upon as a result of religious beliefs or reactionary rhetoric similar to that of Messrs O’Reilly and Miller.  The refusal to proceed with construction would squander an invaluable opportunity to demonstrate that, in the land of the free, liberty and religious freedom will ultimately prevail.

Jacob Shmukler was born and raised in Atlanta, GA, graduated from Emory University in 2009, and recently moved to Washington, DC to become a writer/researcher.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Deron-Reid/1029130975 Deron Reid

    Jacob, sorry but you are way off base. this project is a deliberate poke in the eye to Americans. not a house of worship.

  • johno413

    Sadly, Mr. Schmukler, in your attempt to argue the principal to which there is no dispute, you miss the more important points. I don’t recall either O’Reilly or Miller calling for the mayor to block permitting or building the mosque. There is no law giving him that power. My take is they were highlighting that all in the elected class have a bully pulpit, of sorts. Just as our president may verbalize an opinion about a notorious arrest in Cambridge, MA, and thereby set a tone, so could the mayor express some skepticism or uneasiness representative of a majority of his citizens (if you believe polls). But instead, this mayor attacks those who take an emotional position against the mosque.

    We as a nation have rights that are protected (not granted) and our freedoms that follow from such protection lead to actions. Because those actions are protected does not guarantee that they might not be questioned or even scrutinized. Everyone who is queasy about this Imam, his stated intentions and the lack of supporting them, and the source of funds have every reason to be and every freedom to be uncertain. And that, at least in my view, is what I see as the source of much of the frustration and vocalizing lately.

    Following your logic, if I infer correctly, would mean that the right to assemble and even petition the government is an absolute and should never be questioned or observed. Any assembly, as long as it is lawful, should never be examined lest we suggest we don’t believe the assembled have such rights. Is that your view?

    I will grant you that the segment which relies on humor and comedic sarcasm is not well suited for making serious points.

  • VADude

    Another radical left wing terrorist lover. I support them bulding a Mosque
    anywhere except there. How about next door to you? You seem to like the idea.
    If you knew anything about radical Muslims I would call you a traitor, but since you don’t, your just an idiot.

  • VADude

    Bloomberg is a rich idiot! He tried to get a Muslim terrorist tried in the NY courts, until the people of New York screamed at him loud enough for him to hear. Then he tells Obama he doesn’t want to have the trial in NY city after Obama told us it was Holder’s decision. Now Obama’s puppet Mayor Bloomburg want to to defend the plan to build a mosque just several hundred feet from Ground Zero. So Mayor Bloomburg wants to support a known terrorist supporter who doesn’t believe Hamas is a terrorist organization. But then Hillery Clinton, has Taliban excluded from State Department list of terrorist organizations, reason unclear. Do you see a pattern here, or is it just me?

    • gdtrfb

      The only pattern I see is idiots like you who manage to decipher a conspiracy from basic acts of good governance.

      Bloomberg didn’t support or oppose the Mosque.

      This has nothing to do with any decsion or act by the US Department of Justice, so your rantings about Holder are moronic.

      Clinton didn’t “exclude” the Taliban from the FTO list. The Taliban has never been on the FTO list, not even under W. While we can argue they should have been put on the list going back to the 90s, I’m not sure you care about that. Or any facts.

      Lastly, you’re a pole-smoker.