August 4th, 2010
07:40 PM ET

Lawsuit challenges ground zero mosque

By Elise Zeiger, CNN Senior Producer

A group representing a New York City firefighter who survived the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks filed suit Wednesday seeking to nullify a ruling that cleared the way for construction of what's come to be known as the "ground zero mosque."

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed its suit against the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission at the New York Supreme Court. The suit urges the court to nullify a decision by the commission Tuesday, when it denied landmark status to a building and thereby cleared the way for an Islamic center and mosque to be built on the site.

The lawsuit charges that the city violated its own policies and procedures in rejecting landmark status and exhibited "an arbitrary and capricious abuse of discretion."

"We seek to preserve and have landmarked a property that terrorism on September 11th, 2001, was unable to destroy, but which will be destroyed if the landmark's decision stands as is," said ACLJ counsel Brett Joshpe. "We believe that they rushed to a vote, that they rushed a decision without a full and fair public hearing and public debate."

The ACLJ is representing Tim Brown, a decorated firefighter who survived the Twin Towers' collapse.

"Who decided the boundaries of ground zero? Where did it end? It seems common sense to me that if part of the plane went through the roof, that certainly means there could be body parts there. And as far as we can tell, it has not been searched. We're gonna find out," said Brown, now retired, who said he lost 93 friends in the collapse.

The existing building is owned by the Cordoba Initiative, a Muslim outreach group, and already serves as a site where prayer services are held. The group wants to demolish the existing structure and build a "$100 million, 13-story community center with Islamic, interfaith and secular programming," the Cordoba Initiative website says.

The ACLJ, a legal advocacy group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson in 1990, is seeking to have the landmarks commission's ruling set aside by the court and have the commission reconsider.

The lawsuit says that the building in question had been under consideration for landmark status 20 years before 9/11, and that the designation is even more appropriate now since part of one of the hijacked plane from the attacks crashed through the roof of the building.

"For them to suddenly take this property in the dead of summer, on such a controversial issue, to publicly announce a hearing with very little notice and to provide only a week's time for public comment, really is uncharacteristic, especially for a property of this sort," Joshpe said, referring to the commission.

"We're not here because of hate or bigotry. Nobody wants to ban Islam," he said. "This is about insensitivity."

Brown, clearly outraged Tuesday's decision said, families of 9/11 victims "are physically ill over the vote. I'm here to defend those families."

"We are not going to back off, we are going to charge full steam ahead on this, and we're gonna see to it that this mosque never gets built on ground zero, on our cemetery," Brown added.

The court is expected to set a hearing date for the lawsuit sometime in October.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Houses of worship • Interfaith issues • Islam • Mosque • Muslim • New York • United States

soundoff (553 Responses)
  1. Illuminated

    Uh, i'm afraid you're having terroristic thoughts, my dear. But wait, you're not Muslim, now are you? =)

    August 4, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    OR, just hear me out, the other people could be the "bigger man" and allow it to be built anyways?

    August 4, 2010 at 9:52 pm |
  3. Damanvan

    I am an atheist. I am more worried about Islam than I am about Christians at this point. Christianity is becoming a worn out side note. Islam is at about the same level Christianity was about 1000 years ago. They are invading countries by recruiting. Once they are in they are fighting to get their law "Sharia" installed. People are trying to be inclusive and tolerant so the allow this. This puts the moderate muslims back in the crap hole they came from. It also creates breeding grounds for radical muslim society. If you don't believe me google london Islam riots. I don't know how I feel about the Mosque. I am not a NYer. I do know how I feel about the religion.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Given how Americans are toward the Muslims in general, I wouldn't exactly say that they're being tolerant or inclusive. Nor do I think that they're allowing any "breeding grounds" of the sort.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  4. Dre

    We need more mosques in the US like we need more churches; oh wait, we don't need anymore of those either. Can't these religious groups find a better way of spending their money during this economic downturn than to build something that really isn't needed?

    August 4, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
  5. ALEX

    Has the Imam behind the movement to build the mosque pubilcy condemned the 9/11 attacks? Hell no! It would cut into his building fund.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
    • Julia22

      Good point!

      August 4, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Or maybe it's because most of them living here feel the same about 9/11 that everyone else does? It's certainly a possibility.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
    • steven harnack

      Have you publicly condemned close-minded idiots? No? then you must be one or support them! See how that works? Gee I love this. Who else haven't you condemned? Pedophiles? Wife-beaters?

      August 4, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  6. ALEX

    Let's buy the property across the street, barbecue pork ribs, and have pig races every Friday.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
  7. Daniel standing in the fire

    You say: "Christians = Hypocrites."
    I have to disagree with this to some extent.
    I will agree with a modified assertion "(some/many) Christian Extremists = Hypocrites."
    I support the position that this is for New Yorkers to decide and the need for the religious right to intervene so it can push it's political agenda is wrong but not surprising.
    I urge you to consider not labeling all Christians based on the acts of Christian extremists as well as not labeling all Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Atheists, Agnostics (and many others who are not mentioned only by my failure to think of them at this moment) for the acts of the extremists in their midst.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:44 pm |
  8. Jake

    On one hand, setting up a mosque at ground zero seems kind of insensitive to me. I'd compare it to setting up a Holocaust memorial somewhere, but then building some German establishment there as well. Nothing wrong with Germans, but in that case, it would just be in bad taste, know what I mean?

    On the other hand, not allowing a mosque just because the terrorists happened to be Muslim is intolerant and also insensitive. Many Muslims were outraged after 9/11, and couldn't believe that people who practiced Islam would do such a thing ... just because a few Muslim extremists hurt the US, we shouldn't punish all of them.

    I think that, overall, this issue will never end well. Allow the mosque to be built, and be seen as insensitive by many people. Remove the mosque, and be seen as insensitive by many people.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
  9. paul

    It is not about a mosque being built, it is about the fundamental foundation on which this country was built being destroyed. Muslims to the outside world they denouce terrorism but within themselves they are proud of their terrorist brothers and sisters. Terrorism is a propaganda and weapon they use to attack us with and make us believe that they dont tolerate radicalized muslims. I am going to be straight here.......Don't you get it ppl get it, they use their weapon of terrorism to cut the american manhood (the twin towers) and now want to build a mosque over it to say that they are taking over us. Please don't think i am being blatant but sometimes you have to be, to make the ppl understand.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Um, no it pretty much is about the mosque. Besides, you're kinda assuming things here, buddy. Not all Muslims support terrorism, ya know. >_>

      August 4, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
    • Cedar rapids

      'it is about the fundamental foundation on which this country was built being destroyed'
      You mean like the principal of freedom of religion you mean?

      August 4, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  10. j007

    The american way..go to court file a lawsuit... where were all the lawsuits when your government lied about the 9/11 commission report? if my loved one died on that day, id be looking to Bush and co. for some answers... i mean come on. If you guys believe that some guy (who youve been hunting for 10 years) planned this from a cave in the middle east and 9 guys took out 4 planes your as dumb as this lawsuit., worried about a mosque in NYC when the city is already owned and run by the Jewish religion. Its easy to blame Muslims because most americans dont know anything about it,,, and no im not muslim, im a facts kinda of christian. so glad im Canadian.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:39 pm |
  11. mnguest

    land of the free and the home of the brave

    August 4, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
  12. billr

    well who knows maybe we will get some racist republican vet who will fly a plane into the building after it is built

    August 4, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
  13. regal80

    there's no reason why a mosque should be offensive...any other place than there. Placing a mosque there is planting a flag on conquered territory. If you pull back from your emotions and look at it, it is insensitive, no matter how good these particular people's intentions are or are not. I'm going to have to put a little faith in these people who planned this out and say that they meant well, but it's still wrong.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Well, that's kind of like saying that a white person moving into a predominantly black neighborhood is wrong because another group of white people who lived there previously killed a bunch of black people because they were racist. Obviously, this is heavily watered-down compared to 9/11 and the mosque, but it's still the same basic concept. Still, at least you're trying to think this through rationally.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
  14. Gary

    Simple solution - burn it down once it's erected.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
    • Abuzayd

      sounds like what some used to do to the black family's homes when they were built where they were not wanted.

      August 5, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  15. lepke

    If I would be a victim of 9/11 I would not want a Muslim Center to be built on the exact place where I have lost my life. Just does not feel right. Building a Muslim center is a distatesful act. I have nothing agaist Muslims but let's leave the 9/11 victims rest in peace where they were killed. No need for Muslim, Chirstian or any religious center on that site to try to lessen the pain, the horror what people experienced or justify and explain what and why had happened. Let the victims rest in peace. Dont insult them with this idea. Build the Center somewhere else. Respect one another.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:32 pm |
    • Greg

      It's two blocks away.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
  16. Dave

    At least finish high school before you throw in your input. Maybe then we might even consider taking you seriously.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:32 pm |
  17. Greg

    Wow that is rather ridiculous.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:32 pm |
  18. mnguest

    build it, fill it, bomb it-there we're even

    August 4, 2010 at 9:26 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Brilliant idea. I'm sure that they won't do it again for revenge, which would cause us to do it again for revenge, which would cause them to do it again for revenge, etc. etc. etc. m i rite?

      August 4, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
    • Drinky

      Well we've been ruining other nations for about a hundred years now...looks like they were trying to even up the score. Of course if you don't think the slimy hand of the CIA wasn't involved in 9/11 as a way to scare the American people to enrich a handful of American corporations and bankers then you are as dumb as you sound.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
    • mnguest

      you're right, bad idea, would make us just like them.....

      August 4, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
  19. Chris

    A nation that is truly strong and committed to its founders' ideals would welcome this opportunity to demonstrate its strength and wisdom. We can embrace Islamic culture even in the wake of terror, sapping the credibility of the radical Islamists' rhetoric and recruitment speeches. Or we can remain fearful and bigoted, ostracizing Muslims and fanning the flames of their radicals' hatred.

    I'd like to be the stronger nation. Rise above the divisive policies and fear that we see in other countries.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
    • Anonymous

      And yet we still claim that we are the stronger and more wise nation even though we try to get rid of anything that is slightly different to what we think is "right." because it's "unpatriotic" and it'll "destroy our nation" Funny world we live in, no?

      August 4, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
    • Illuminated

      Well said, Chris.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
    • Abuzayd

      Excellent post Chris, Fear and ignorance has taken over the sensibilities of many. Such bigoted reaction and hateful stereotyping of muslims will feed into further alienating the muslim youth who will be made to feel like 'outsiders' in their own country and may drive them to more radical mindsets.

      Islam is the most widely followed and the fastest growing religion in the world with about 1.5 Billion muslims, it would be dishonest to believe about this religion the lies that people are told to believe instead of finding out for themselves what islam is about.

      From what i understand the site is already a functioning Masjid, and prayers are already performed there, they are just looking to modernize,upgrade, and beautify the building.

      August 5, 2010 at 8:23 am |
  20. Dave G.

    This country is losing it's culture, religion and pride. I'm far from conservative or religious but I embrace christian belief and idiology. Is not really hard to have an argument against religion and a lot of people in the US are educated, intelligent and see through the vast holes that religion cannot answer, faith is an easy target....but remember that as its attacked in schools, government and whatever that the vacuum will be filled by islam...I would rather go to church hang out and BBQ then to pray to allah, disrespect women and go back 1000 years in time...at some point we will all see the light but for now islam is growing too rapidily and getting too radical and we should preserve christian fundamentals to hold off islam, for now...

    August 4, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
    • Greg

      And in this country you have that right, just like any Muslim has that right.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
    • Dave

      If your religion is so pure and the way to salvation, then what are you worried about? I'm a Muslim living in this country. I never felt threatened by any Christians around me. You not have any balls? Your post shows your weak character and ignorance. Good job. Now at least go get your GED, tool.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
    • Illuminated

      Dave: let us, for a second, recap Islam's fundamental pillars:
      1) Tawheed (Oneness of God, who is omnipotent and merciful)
      2) Salah (Prayer)
      3) Zakah (Charity – to the poor)
      4) Sawm (Fasting)
      5) Hajj (Pilgrimage... the largest of its kind, which annually draws millions from around the wold – white, black, brown...)

      Oh, and, Muslim women were granted basic rights like voting 1400 years ago. In the West, it didn't happen until 50 years ago.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
    • Dave G

      Dave and Illuminated...did you read beyond the first sentence, religion is a farce and the Muslim religion is the biggest farce of all. American culture and Muslim culture do not mix pure and simple...every single person I know that was muslim didn't give one crap about the towers coming down in fact they cheered. The number of responses from muslims on this site are alarming and it only confirms that our tolerance is our downfall, I don't know how so many muslims got here...what is our government thinking. As for weak character and ignorance...if you believe in fairy tales then you are the ignorant and as for my GED, I'm a exec for a fortune 500 company so you can expect that I have a GED. If you need any lessons on how to apply deodorant let me know....no Muslims...everyone else is fine and I would gladly die for our allays Israel as you POS Muslims will be the destruction of this Earth!

      August 4, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
    • SayWhaaa!!

      Go read your Bible and learn a lesson of humility and ignorance!!

      August 5, 2010 at 12:58 am |
    • SR

      Dave G

      Without insulting anyone, your post read very well. Please don't stoop to the same level as the Islamists and their apologists in christiandom.

      Well, if the thousands of posts here didn't drive home our point against this mosque, here's a one line summary:

      August 5, 2010 at 8:06 am |
    • Nikki

      Dave G. you are absolutely right. America is totally losing it's culture due to political correctness run amuck. It's sad that my kids think my childhood was much more fun than theirs. They feel like we were more "American" than they can be now. They would actually like to try living in another country where they have a distinct culture just so they can say "this is the country I belong to and what it stands for." They are no longer allowed to celebrate anything at school or carry on some of the traditions that made my childhood fun (Christmas formal dances, Halloween costumes instead of band uniforms for the Halloween football game, etc.) out of fear that they may offend someone. How about we celebrate everything instead of nothing???!!! I'd gladly enjoy an interfaith program that celebrates all the holidays in December...but to celebrate nothing, as if those holidays don't exist??? Tragedy! As Americans, we are told by the media and the extreme liberals to be ashamed of what made this country great and to be ashamed of the very reasons this country was founded. Our founding fathers prayed and looked to God for answers....is that so bad? According to a lot of Americans today, yes, yes it is very very bad. I hate that I can't say Merry Christmas to people at work or wish my Indian co-workers Happy Divali....it's very sad that we have become the land of vanilla blandness where nothing is precious anymore. I long for my childhood of the 1970's where we could exuberantly wish each other a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukah.

      August 5, 2010 at 10:15 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.