Westchester lawyer says tone down anti free speech rhetoric after Tucson

People under stress, suffering in grief, reacting to tragedy, all manage their emotions in different ways, which is why no one should be making any great changes in their lives at such times.

This week, a gunman opened fire in Tucson killing six people, including a little girl and a federal judge, and injuring 14 others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  It was a senseless, irrational, unexplainable act which once again exemplified that bad things happen to good people.

Yet, amid the tragedy of this shooting, we are hearing from presumably intelligent people screaming about curtailing fundamental American rights, especially the right to free speech.  Can someone, anyone explain to me why when there is a tragedy many lawmakers look to blame the Bill of Rights which has withstood the test of time for more than 200 years.

Some members have Congress have called for the creation of a crime making it a federal felony to threaten a federal lawmaker. Why?  Are they more important than you and I?  I think not, as did the forefathers of these United States which guaranteed each of us a right to free speech. 

All words have power and no one knows that more than a writer or journalist; it is how we make our living.  However, deleting our ability to use words as we desire will not modify the irrational behavior of a mentally ill person.  Modifying our right to free speech will not eradicate  the pervasiveness of evil which blackens every society.

While it is true that words give rise to action, the US Constitution assures each of us the absolute right to free speech and prohibits Congress from making any such modification which would limit that liberty:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

 Instead of turning up the rhetoric about laws that will never come to pass, why not just focus on the emotions of the day……recognize that it made no sense and pray for the shooter and the victims because anything more is just an irrational knee-jerk rant.

Religious prejudice is just as bad a religious fanaticism!

Tonight, the NYC Landmark Preservation Commission denied landmark status for the controversial building near the former site of the World Trade Center, which a Muslim group wants to use a cultural center.  It clears the way for the developers to knock down the building for the new structure but this fight is going to go knocking and screaming for years to come in the courts.  Why?  Because the critics who now wave  the American flag and the Constitution have selective memories and beliefs.  When American freedoms suit their personal needs, they seek to uphold the Constitution; yet, when a group whose religious affiliation is the same as a bunch of lunatics who destroyed a symbol of American capitalism, well, then they wrap themselves in a holier than thou attitude and say “banish thee to hell.”

These critics of the center are just as ignorant as the people who flew planes into the World Trade Center.  I refuse to call it “ground zero.”  There was no nuclear explosion but what has followed is an explosion of emotions that has now reached a fever pitch to the point of rationale discussion being buried in the aftermath.

The proposed project is not just a mosque – in fact, it is more than just a prayer center for the Islamic community.  It will be a cultural center and social gathering place.  I have tried to educate the ignorant in previous articles but the message is falling on deaf ears by those who have chosen to stop listening.

ground zero mosque controversy

Perhaps mosque debate should shed light on religious freedom / photo courtesy: Jackie-Sister72

Those who are so outraged……..those who wrap themselves in a “censored” version of the Bill of Rights as it suits their needs………those who pretend to be open-minded and instead now preach intolerance……..they are an embarrassment to the cornerstone of democracy in this country.

I ask you, did the first responders who ran into those buildings say “women and children first and anyone who’s Muslim you’re on your own?” No.  Police, firefighters, those who defend our rights to live free, they tried to rescue anyone without requiring a religious visa for a passport to survival.

I have said it before and I will scream it from my the top of my liberal pulpit – I am an American and I believe each of us has a right to worship as we see fit.  The critics are equally to blame for creating an atmosphere of hysteria, which can be likened to the Salem Witch Trials in this country.  If we cannot explain something, is it our inherent right to destroy it?  By doing so are we not then as loony as the idiots who went on a suicide mission on 9/11?

As this Westchester attorney has stated before, it is unlikely that the city would prevail in any effort to block this project with the RLUIPA statute in place. Yet, the battle cries being raised may create such a dangerous, vigilante mentality that I shudder to think what these loudmouths will do if the project is erected in let’s say 5 – 10 years………because that’s how long it’ll take the lawsuits to proceed through the judicial system.  I pray to Jesus, Buddah and Allah that sanity reigns at some point and peace prevails in lower Manhattan.

Westchester attorney wonders if mosque at Ground Zero is madness or tolerance

I am an American, a New Yorker, a Westchester attorney and not necessarily in that order, nor is that all there is to me.  Yet, all of these components of my being are reacting differently to the proposed erection of a mosque near Ground Zero.

It has been 9 years and the memory may be fading for some Americans but it still hits a raw nerve for New Yorkers.  We still see the void each and every day.  We still see the construction crews each and every day.  We still travel the subways and jump now at the sound of sirens, each and every time……….whereas before 9/11 they were just part of the background noise.

Right now, there is fierce debate going on over the proposal to knock down a historic building and erect a center for Muslim culture in its place.  Landmark preservationists are using the “historic” term to hide their true anti-Moslem feelings because if the current building was so “treasured” why was it housing a discount clothing outlet prior to now?  Really?

Let’s put things in perspective.  We have a Constitution that conservatives and liberals wave about as it suits their needs but at the heart of that document is the very thing those Moslem extremists ENVY and tried to eradicate in those 9/11 attacks.  It is called Freedom of Religion.  We, as Americans, can choose whatever deity or dogma we desire, be it Catholicism, Judaism or even Wiccan.  They cannot.  By prohibiting them from building a mosque so close to what has become a permanent graveyard for thousands of people, are we not giving them exactly what they tried to accomplish?  The very tenet our nation was built on, freedom for all, would be limited by such an extremist view on our part.

Towers of Light

Perhaps mosque debate should shed light on religious freedom / photo courtesy: Jackie-Sister72

Further, developers say the cultural center will be just that and while it will include a room for Muslim prayer, there will be recreational facilities along with a memorial to the victims of 9/11.  Should we not embrace this effort by the Muslim community to put the past behind us and try to heal?  Perhaps tolerance with extreme vigilance will provide New Yorkers with preservation of freedom and security for its homeland at the same time.  Maybe, just maybe, the developers should invite members of the 9/11 survivors to take part in planning the memorial.  Let’s not forget that Moslems also died in those attacks – Moslems who were just going to work that day, just like Christians, Jews and atheists.

On a more practical level, there is a federal statute in place called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA).  Its main purpose is to provide religious freedom in the land use context and it has been strenuously upheld by federal courts from coast to coast.  If this comes to loggerheads in court, not only will it drag out for years but it’s unlikely NYC will prevail in banning this proposal.