Michael Bloomberg on Freedom

3 Aug
World trade center new york city from hudson c...
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Neither puking hatred or semi-informed emotion – it is words like these that remind us what it means to be an American.

“We have come here to Governors Island to stand where the earliest settlers first set foot in New Amsterdam, and where the seeds of religious tolerance were first planted. We’ve come here to see the inspiring symbol of liberty that, more than 250 years later, would greet millions of immigrants in the harbor, and we come here to state as strongly as ever – this is the freest City in the world. That’s what makes New York special and different and strong.

“Our doors are open to everyone – everyone with a dream and a willingness to work hard and play by the rules. New York City was built by immigrants, and it is sustained by immigrants – by people from more than a hundred different countries speaking more than two hundred different languages and professing every faith. And whether your parents were born here, or you came yesterday, you are a New Yorker.

“We may not always agree with every one of our neighbors. That’s life and it’s part of living in such a diverse and dense city. But we also recognize that part of being a New Yorker is living with your neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance. It was exactly that spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11.

“On that day, 3,000 people were killed because some murderous fanatics didn’t want us to enjoy the freedom to profess our own faiths, to speak our own minds, to follow our own dreams and to live our own lives.

“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.

“This morning, the City’s Landmark Preservation Commission unanimously voted not to extend landmark status to the building on Park Place where the mosque and community center are planned. The decision was based solely on the fact that there was little architectural significance to the building. But with or without landmark designation, there is nothing in the law that would prevent the owners from opening a mosque within the existing building. The simple fact is this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship.

“The government has no right whatsoever to deny that right – and if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question – should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another.

The World Trade Center Site will forever hold a special place in our City, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves – and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans – if we said ‘no’ to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.

“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values – and play into our enemies’ hands – if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists – and we should not stand for that.

“For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime – as important a test – and it is critically important that we get it right.

“On September 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked ‘What God do you pray to?’ ‘What beliefs do you hold?’

“The attack was an act of war – and our first responders defended not only our City but also our country and our Constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights – and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.

“Of course, it is fair to ask the organizers of the mosque to show some special sensitivity to the situation – and in fact, their plan envisions reaching beyond their walls and building an interfaith community. By doing so, it is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our City even closer together and help repudiate the false and repugnant idea that the attacks of 9/11 were in any way consistent with Islam. Muslims are as much a part of our City and our country as the people of any faith and they are as welcome to worship in Lower Manhattan as any other group. In fact, they have been worshipping at the site for the better part of a year, as is their right.

“The local community board in Lower Manhattan voted overwhelming to support the proposal and if it moves forward, I expect the community center and mosque will add to the life and vitality of the neighborhood and the entire City.

“Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure – and there is no neighborhood in this City that is off limits to God’s love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us today can attest.”

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16 Responses to “Michael Bloomberg on Freedom”

  1. Jaquandor August 3, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    And to think, once upon a time he would have been the norm in the Republican party.

  2. Eisenbart August 3, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    “For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime – as important a test – and it is critically important that we get it right.”

    I woulda bet my life saving that gay marriage would have been the biggest test of separation of church and state.

    ::flips the table in hulk rage::

  3. Eric Saldanha August 3, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    But it’s far more important what non-New Yorkers, like Sarah “One-Half-Term-Governor” Palin and Newt “Asked His 1st Wife For A Divorce While She Was In The Hospital Treated For Cancer” Gingrich think about a Muslim outreach center in lower Manhattan. Geesh.

  4. Hank August 4, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    Very tolerant attitude. Al Queda’s laughing their asses off reading it. Perhaps the next time lower manhattan explodes in Jihadist fury, the first responders will be picking pieces of the tolerant Mayor out of the ashes.

    • STEEL August 4, 2010 at 10:11 am #

      You don’t really believe in the principles of our country do you?

    • kris August 4, 2010 at 10:54 am #

      Why do you hate America?

    • Matt August 4, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

      Perfect, so we should sink the levels of Al Qaeda and fight them on their terms, instead of being true to the principles that founded America. 

  5. Hank August 4, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    I believe in America. I hate our enemies, not my country. As Gene Hackman said in Mississippi Burning: THESE PEOPLE COME OUT OF A SEWER!!! SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO GET IN THE SEWER TO DEFEAT THEM! Nope, all you happy liberals keep kissing asses and being tolerant, and when they show up to slit your throat, you’ll have nothing but a surprised look on your face.

    • Alan Bedenko August 4, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

      All Muslims are not al Qaeda terrorists, but all al Qaeda terrorists are Muslims. Hope that clears it up, Hank.

    • STEEL August 4, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

      I hate our enemies too. I just don’t see what that has to do with Americans wanting to build a mosque in NYC.

  6. Eric Saldanha August 4, 2010 at 4:13 pm #

    You know who else hates the Cordoba Initative? Osama bin Laden.

    Once again, loony conservatives find themselves in alignment with Al Queda. “Sarah bin Palin” has a nice ring to it.

    • Brian Castner August 4, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

      You know who else wants us to leave Iraq? Osama Bin Laden!!!!

      I have a fun game. Let’s name everything Osama Bin Laden wants, and figure out which Democrats and Republicans want the same thing! That’ll be fun, and super helpful to meaningful discussion. I hear Bin Laden likes falafel, and so does Bin Pelosi! Scandal!

      • Eric Saldanha August 4, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

        LOL, but still doesn’t address the central point that Al Queda hates moderate Muslims seeking common ground with other faiths and cultures.

        And who said bin Laden wants the U.S. out of Iraq? We practically did his bidding for him, removing Saddam and allowing AQ fresh recruiting grounds and home-court advantage to kill Americans.

      • Brian Castner August 4, 2010 at 9:41 pm #

        Seriously? Have you been paying attention to the whole AQ motivation, US out of the Arabian penninsula, re-establish the Caliphate thing for the last 10 years? Well, if not, there is an entire affiliate of AQ in Iraq killing US troops and fellow Iraqi’s. Plus there is this little video – remember it? http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/07/AR2007090700279.html

        I think at the time, Republicans said, “See!! Dems want out of Iraq and so does Bin Laden. The Dems are siding with Bin Laden.” At which point all the Dems said (and I’ll throw you in the group) “That’s not fair. You can’t say we’re with the terrorists just because we disagree with you.” Coming back now?

        Of course he hates moderate Muslims talking to other faiths. But (and I can’t believe I even have to say this), what the fuck does that have to do with anything? There are many people in this world that I pay no attention to when forming an opinion. Both Palin and Bin Laden are on that list.

      • Eric Saldanha August 4, 2010 at 10:24 pm #

        Yes, I am well familiar with AQ’s motivation – for example, their motiviation for the Sept. 11 attack stems from bin Laden taking affront at the U.S. placing troops in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War. Not because the Koran directed him to do so.

        What I seemed to remember over this past decade was this: Democrat issues statement about [insert any topic here]. Republicans trip over one another to get to a microphone and denounce said Democrat as a tool of bin Laden. Let’s not pretend that Republicans in Washington and elsewhere haven’t repeatedly used the GWOT and exploiting people’s fears as a political cudgel to hammer and smear Democrats (and reasonable Republicans) who wouldn’t clap louder for Bush and march in step on the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz road to ruin. Remember this little video? Ah, the halcyon days when a Republican Senate candidate could morph bin Laden’s face into that of Max Cleland right before misreprenting Sen. Cleland’s voting record – all in the effort to portray Democrats as chickenshit cowards. Yeah, that I remember.

        So, you’ll pardon me if I return the favor (even though I’m not really doing the equivalent). I’m simply raising the point that the opposition to the Cordoba Initiative finds interesting bedfellows and, specifically, the ridiculous rhetoric employed by conservatives here only feeds into bin Laden’s fever dream that the U.S. is actually at war with Islam.

      • Brian Castner August 5, 2010 at 8:25 am #

        As long as you realize all you are doing is returning the favor. The same thing you decried in reverse. Nothing more. You shouldn’t have to stoop to Bin Laden to prove Palin is wrong.

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