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. april

    An Islamic center built at ground zero? Sure! And why not build a nazi visitor center, complete with sunrise services where the faithful can worship a giant statue of ole' Adolph Hitler, right next to a Holocaust museum? Better yet, let's just declare 9/11, "Piss on the Graves of the Fallen Day". Building this center, Mayor Bloomberg says, will show the world how tolerant America is. Why should we ever tolerate a religion that oppresses, enslaves, and demeans it's followers?They certainly don't tolerate any one else!

    The irony of this whole mess is utterly vomit inducing. Islam tolerates NOTHING and NO ONE, outside of it's self. They don't recognize or TOLERATE other people's beliefs. And we are a nation of many religions. What do you think is going to happen if we allow this? They will use our freedoms, our protections, our rights, to bully ALL other religions freely practiced in this country, into submission to their agenda. They'll use our own constitution against us, further opening wide the doors for terrorists to easily infiltrate every corner of every state, nation wide.

    Think it can't happen?

    They're already past the idea and proposal status with the project, folks. It's being FUNDED.
    I'm not a biggot. I recognize evil when I see it. And in all honesty, I don't want to share my country with muslims.
    There,... I said it.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
  2. ALEX

    Sheila- If this country is not superior to the Muslim countries around the globe why do so many of them want to come here? If we are not a pretty sight to billions around the world then they need to stay the hell out of our country. Build your mosque at home where, need I remind you...you, as a woman have NO rights. You would not be allowed to express your opinion. It really is crappy here isn't it?

    August 4, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • Sheila

      My point is, ALEX, you let them in so why discriminate. It is precisely the view of billions that the USA has too many inconsistent standards internally but then preach a holier than thou mantra to the rest of the world. I am not a Muslim, do not live in a Muslim country and, thankfully, nor do I live in the USA with people in denial like you.

      August 5, 2010 at 2:29 am |
  3. sharon

    Muslims of the Islamic faith died in the Towers, too. They were Americans. There was a prayer room in one of the Tower for people of Islamic faith. Americans of the Islamic faith are not responsible for 9/11, anymore than Christian Republicans are responsible for bombing the Murragh Building in Oklahoma City.

    The building that is being proposed is not at Ground Zero; it's some blocks away and there are a number of buildings in between Ground Zero and the proposed community center.

    Islamic derangement syndrome seems to be running rampant here. Quit watching Fox news. They lie.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Very much so. Eh, it makes for some entertaining readings (Kung Pao, I'm looking at you), if anything.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • Uncledede

      get a life

      August 4, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
    • Anonymous


      You're telling HIM (or me, or us) to get a life? Who are the people needlessly whining and complaining about a building?

      August 5, 2010 at 12:47 am |
  4. Amrullah Yousafzai, Margalla Hills

    1. It's not a mosque

    2. It not at ground zero

    Stop calling it the "Ground Zero Mosque"

    August 4, 2010 at 10:33 pm |
    • Tom

      Thank you.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
    • Anonymous

      I've been hearing everywhere that it's a mosque. If what you say is true, then people have even less of a reason to complain.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
    • Maxell

      Hey It's in Earshot of where the towers once stood tall, and they pray or whatever you call it there now, don't play Stupid you non-American

      August 4, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Prove that he's a non-American. 😀

      August 5, 2010 at 12:47 am |
    • Sashland


      August 6, 2010 at 9:11 am |
  5. Tom

    My God, someone actually wants to build something! This structure has been the Cordoba Initiative property for decades and they can do with it what they want. It is several NYC blocks from "Ground Zero" and has already been in use as a a prayer center for ages. Besides, it might even bring in a few construction jobs. We could use that right about now. Heck, it might even foster more economic development – which we could really really use right about now.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
    • Uncle Shamu

      It is said that it was their property which may well be that they are tenants, or have a longterm lease with an expiry date, or a sublease through an agent or property manage, and don't actually know who the legal Landlord is.

      To be a proprietor of a private space, or the land beneath it, means that one has endowed a property manager to fund a property developer to construct on the site, using private funds, within proper rules of conduct and building set forth by city bylaws.

      This Imam, his property manager, and the group's spokesperson make claims that I cannot trust, and no one seems to be verifying.

      August 5, 2010 at 12:19 am |
  6. Fed up

    Enough with what Muslims want. What do AMERICANS want! I may have been raised Catholic, but I am AMERCAN first. I may have ancestors from Italy, but I am AMERICAN first. This is the difference between my background and the that of many immigrants – legal and otherwise – who come to this country today. My ancestors came here to share in the AMERICAN way of life. They did not come here to establish anything from the old country. They came for a BETTER future. I am so sick and tired of hearing immigrant peoples today complain about speaking English - about how our ways are not right. To hell with them. This is my country and I am American 100%. If they can't accept America as it is, then they can go back to where they obviously think things are so great. My vote is that everyone wanting to be an AMERICAN should be allowed to be AMERICAN. No slack for anything else.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
    • Anonymous

      I as an American (who has been raised Catholic) want to see this mosque built to prove that we as Americans are above prejudice, hatred, religious intolerence, etc. etc.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
    • Maxell

      I'm with you all the way , Good to hear from a True American !!

      August 4, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
    • Uncledede

      here .... here !!!

      August 4, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
    • mike cutter

      My roots go back to the 1700's but I am ashamed to be lumped in with the intolerant haters (so called American patriots) who are willing to abandon the rule of constitutional law that governs this country. Look to 1930's Germany to see where that leads.

      August 12, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  7. Sashland

    The anti-church and anti-temple policies of Saudi Arabia ARE relevant because this mosk is being funded by that repressive government. This is a development of a foreign country that does not allow religious freedom. The leaders of this mosk are acting as unregistered foreign agents.

    If they truly want reconciliation they will not build this project – it will only bring strife and conflict, yet they don't care to hear or understand that they are being hurtful and insulting. Reconciliation would involve a long series of meetings and discussions with the opponents and a halt to the application. That would show RESPECT. If they want to have dialogue, not is the time, not after it is built.

    What is it that they really want if not actual reconciliation.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Um, I don't recall there ever being any reports that Saudi Arabia was financing this. >_> Care to point me in the direction of a source?

      August 4, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
    • Sashland

      "At first, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf insisted the funds would be raised entirely from the Muslim-American community.
      But then he told an Arabic-language newspaper in Britain that funding would also come from Arab countries."

      Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/editorials/money_behind_the_mosque_SZDcDNLjX4SwxHmwtES5mK#ixzz0vhGBEc00

      August 4, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
    • Ari

      Will they take Zakat from terrorist enablers?

      August 5, 2010 at 12:36 am |
    • Sashland


      Will they GIVE zakat to terrorist enablers?

      August 6, 2010 at 9:06 am |
  8. Maxell

    Think about this my fellow Americans>>If this hell hole gets built ben laden will be smiling ear to ear and all his people will think that they can just about do anything in the US. All Real Americans should Stand Up and NEVER let This Happen-NEVER EVER. We have put up with enough Already !!!

    August 4, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  9. Cedar rapids

    This whole law suit won't really change anything.
    They do not need permission to turn it into a mosque. All the protection status means is that they cannot make structural changes to it, it has nothing at all to do with its purpose.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
  10. Maxell

    Think about this my fellow Americans>>If this hell hole gets built ben laden will be smiling ear to ear and all his people will think that they can just about do anything in the US. All Real Americans should Stand Up and NEVER let This Happen-NEVER EVER. We have put up with enough Already !!!

    August 4, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
    • Anonymous

      @Maxwell: Uh-huh.......so the Muslim people will be able to do whatever they want if this ONE LITTLE MOSQUE OUT OF WHO KNOWS HOW MANY gets built?

      August 4, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  11. Sheila

    I think this is a good idea. The way you Americans have tried to disengage the worlds Muslims over the past decades hasn't worked, has it? I don't understand how you can hold yourselves out to be superior to these people when you have created so much human carnage and financial wreckage around the globe that most of us are lucky to have a shirt left to wear. I mean, if you dont like these Muslim people, don't let them in to the USA to start with. But once in, dont deny them the same rights you claim for yourselves. Look in the mirror USA, it's not a pretty sight to billions around the globe.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  12. Akman Senior

    I have a question for everyone that is against the building of the mosque: the Bill of Rights provides that the government shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of any religion. Of course, people can be deprive of their rights, but only after "due process of law".

    Why do think the people who seek to build this mosque should be deprived of their right to practice their religion where and how they see fit? They have not been tried or even accused of any crime. Many Americans frequently remind us of their second amendment right to bear arms; why are the mosque's backers not equally entitled to the protections of the constitution? Or, are there some "emotional situations" where the constitution just doesn't apply? And if so, what are some other similar situations?

    Please let the forum know what you think.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
    • Sally

      As far as I can tell, Islam as an organization is treasonous.

      Let's examine:
      Main Entry: trea·son
      Pronunciation: \ˈtrē-zən\
      Function: noun
      Etymology: Middle English tresoun, from Anglo-French traisun, from Latin tradition-, traditio act of handing over, from tradere to hand over, betray — more at traitor
      Date: 13th century
      1 : the betrayal of a trust : treachery
      2 : the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family

      Everyone knows to abide by Islam and Sharia Law go hand in hand. To support an organization that supports a differenty type of government entirely is against the law. In this country, it wouldn't be possible at present because we live in a democracy and Muslims make up less than 1% of our population. Once the seep into the fabric of our society, it will be possible and it IS there goal. If you are Muslim and you disagree, you disagree with your faith not me.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
    • Ari

      Why have the Mosque planners been so silent on female g. mutilation in Muslim (and non-Muslim) communities?

      August 5, 2010 at 12:39 am |
  13. 1rooster

    Africans were enslaved and kept slaves in the name of Christianity. But that's okay...

    August 4, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
    • Julia22

      Yes, but Christians realized this was wrong and changed their behavior. Islam hasn't changed since its inception. Big difference.

      American culture and the Christian religion are both welcoming of change. We welcome new knowledge and once we become aware of our "wrongs," work to correct them. Think child labor laws, environmental issues, women's rights... the list goes on. Where is Islam today on these issues? Probably not far from where Mohammad left it.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  14. dly

    Land of the free indeed. As long as you aren't Muslim. For those who suggest that anyone wanting freedom to be a Muslim go 'back to Saudi Arabia', isn't that the kind of intolerance American has always prided itself on rising above? Or was it all just talk and a forgotten dream from the founding fathers?

    August 4, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
    • DP41

      Well put, dly.

      ALL religions have extremists among them. Fred Phelps from Topeka is a CHRISTIAN and claims that American soldiers deserve to die because "god hates fags" and America apparently doesn't take a strong enough stand against homosexuality. Does HE represent the views of all Christianity?? I don't know if it's true or not, but earlier posts claim that Tim McVeigh was a Christian. I'm sure David Koresh claimed to be Christian. One person or a small group of people do not speak for Islam any more than a small group of people with extreme, crazy views speak for Christianity.

      Live and let live, people! If you truly believe in your faith, why do you care so much about the beliefs of another faith? So many of these posts reaffirm my belief that all religions are full of hypocracy – they all preach love but then the vast majority of followers are happy to profess their hatred of anyone who disagrees with them.

      August 4, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  15. ALEX

    Remember anonymous, we did not light the fire.....and FYI blood is an integral part in fire retardant.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Remember ALEX, it doesn't matter who started the damn fire as long as it's put out.....and FYI, the whole fight surrounding this mosque respresents fire and blood in this case represents gasoline.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    @bryan swicicki: It's just as ignorant to believe that's the only possible explanation for building a mosque there.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:00 pm |
  17. ALEX

    No need to threaten violence.....Hudson sprayer + 1 gallon pig's blood. Spray the perimeter. Done deal.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Yes, because the solution to stop a fire is to pour gasoline on it, right?

      August 4, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    I wanted to read just for lulz, but stopped at "mosque finance scandal."

    August 4, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
  19. Damanvan

    I am referring to allowing "Sharia Law." Once Sharia Law is in place, it makes for a breeding ground of islamic Fundamentalism. You have to read in context

    August 4, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Okay then. Given how the American are, they wouldn't allow such a thing as in their eyes, it, like everything else, would destroy the nation.

      August 4, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
    • Damanvan

      I don't know there are a lot of people who can be prodded into changing their beliefs. People are sheep. That is why they go to religion. I think there a lot of people who want to be seen as tolerant who would take up the movement to make Sharia legal. I don't think it could happen in NYC yet. I don't think we need to always be tolerant and inclusive of everyone. Population wise our country and the planet for that matter is pretty much at the tipping point. We are using up or resources like mad. Population control will be a big thing I think over the next century.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
    • Anonymous

      People who go to religion are often intolerant of other religions. And many people who want to be seen as tolerant would act the same way that they act now, but simply claim that they're being tolerant.

      August 4, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
    • Ari

      What is the Imam and his circle position on fundamentalist islamic scriptural interpretations of a Muslim woman's status as subordinate to that of man by nature and in all spheres

      How about having a tiered system of family law where Muslim courts rule distinctly from the constitutionally abiding secular courts?

      Can Muslim women be judges and interpret the Sharia Penal Code under such a radical design?

      August 5, 2010 at 12:44 am |
  20. bryan swicicki

    My Mom was at a rally denouncing the planned mosque....the people who support this project held a banner stating " we will stop terrorism when America changes its foreign policy"

    It is ignorant to believe this mosque is being built across the street from an Islamic attack site by accident.
    The people behind this project are planting a flag...making a point that speaks louder than words...this is sinister

    There are lots of mosques in NYC there are lots of Islamic center that I not the point. This is wrong and no heaping of liberal brainwashing can make this right.

    it will just be so special to sit quietly by the reflecting pool pondering 3000 people massacred ...10000 children orphaned and hear the Islamic call to prayer 5 time a day....so wonderful

    Would it be proper to put a German culture center outside the gates of Auschwitz? They can serve bratwurst, German beer and play German marching songs on the loud speaker! Its bad taste to say the very least. Not all Germans are Nazis but that is not the point.

    August 4, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
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About this blog

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.