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. andrew wang

    USA and Europe must do Referendum to ban muslim immigration and mosques in USA and Europe .
    Europe and USA Governments and Christian Priests don't appease enemies Muslim terrorists and Muslim governments who are doing Islamisation of Europe and USA. You are cowards and Traitors of Europe and USA Christians if you support and appease enemies muslim Terrorists and Muslim Governments who are doing Islamisation of Europe and USA. Ban Mosque in Ground Zero ,New York , USA , Europe and World.

    We don't want a coward leader like British coward PM Arthur Neville Chamberlain who appease Hitler . We want a brave leader like British PM Winston Churchill who have brave to fight back Hitler.
    USA Islamic organizations , Islamic centers infiltrate US FBI, CIA and Pentagon and US politic and all agencies and Institutions of USA and gift a lot of Bribe money to them to allow building of Mosque and support and appease Muslims in USA. Islamic Organizations and Muslims in USA are terrorists but they pretend to be good Religion and good people. They are liars and Cheaters .Don't listen their words and expel them from USA and Europe.

    August 5, 2010 at 3:34 am |
  2. andrew wang

    Islam will fall in 2015.

    August 5, 2010 at 3:31 am |
  3. Ordo av Xi

    This proposed House is not the 92Y. It is a front to funnel money.

    August 5, 2010 at 3:30 am |
    • Ordo av Xi

      Let's get the Islam coat out of the equation so the Lotus crowd doesn't have to sound stupid, but the anti-creative coalition behind the 100$million house is to keep Muslims from learning.

      August 5, 2010 at 3:36 am |
    • Naphtali Ghir

      Who is the enemy? Who is still left to waiting to identify as the enemy? Too bad Muslims are depicted as always rallying around whomever can best fake the pious anti-imperialist.

      August 5, 2010 at 4:38 am |
  4. andrew wang

    Very good. ACLJ must sue also New York coward and traitor Mayor Bloomberg .

    August 5, 2010 at 3:30 am |
  5. paulbark

    Great...a frivolous law suit which will cost the taxpayers of NYC money. What a waste of taxpayer money. I thought the right wing was against frivolous law suits?

    August 5, 2010 at 3:20 am |
  6. Jason

    I agree with the post that building a mosque not only invades the american fabric, but it is insensitive to those who suffered as a result of a terrorist act. I am not a bigot; I grew up in a family with Islamic beliefs and Christian beliefs, however, to belittle the emotions of those that have suffered, still do suffer, it's cruel. I guess to be harsh, it's similar to the congressional law-maker who is against the death penalty for rapist - that is until his or her daughter, or son, is raped, then the rules change. You may say these are Americans who want to build this mosque. Why? They themselves are not part of the Muslim faith, nor would they ever convert, nor would they ever be truly accepted.
    Let's put any ideals of equality that you may have and remember, it's about remembering those that perished, those that lost someone, those that still endure the pain of a tragic event; it should be a landmark and nothing more. America is truly the land of the free, that is why we will remember.

    August 5, 2010 at 3:01 am |
  7. kazz


    August 5, 2010 at 3:01 am |
  8. Indian Dude

    I am a Sikh and lived in a muslim nation for 3 years during the 9-11 attack period. I remember a crowd of men congregating outside my apartment the day after 9-11, cheering for joy. One muslim threatened me with a broken glass bottle during this public event and told me the 'Hindus and Sikhs' are next, I'm glad I'm non-practicing and was able to merge into the background quickly and get inside my apartment before any other crazy muslim noticed me.

    This mosque is being built as a reminder to 'infidels' of who's in charge. America should not allow this mosque to be built, it's completely disrespecful to the families of those murdered in this crime that Islam has committed against humanity. If it goes up, I suggest someone build a bar on one side and a strip club on the other.

    August 5, 2010 at 2:35 am |
    • Aliyas

      Indian Dude you are supposedly a sikh but u are discriminiating against another religion? I thought ur religion is supposed to be peaceful, wat nonsense! And you are saying muslims are bad so then why would u disrespect another religion, hypocrite!

      August 5, 2010 at 2:41 am |
    • Ordo av Xi

      Dante alludes quite a lot to Cordova as an inland stopover. Can't they get a more informed disciple of the latter prophet? No offense, dude but you're a cultural disgrace.

      August 5, 2010 at 3:27 am |
    • Jango Davis

      Dude, THAT is the first real American solution to thsi whole situation. While I do think the Mosque should be built, not to do so would be to abandon our constitution, but absolutely this is America baby, bars and strip joints have the same right to exist has Mosques.


      August 5, 2010 at 7:27 am |
  9. MashaSobaka

    I’d like to point out the irony of the Christian bigots, wailing over their inability to practice Christianity in Saudi Arabia without “fear of persecution”, who are simultaneously through their protests and lawsuits making the same moral crime true for Muslims in America…but said bigots are either too stupid to understand why I find it ironic or they actually believe that Muslims deserve to be brutally punished for the dreadful sin of being Muslim. How many people have died in the attempt to secure fair treatment for ALL Americans? Tell me, Christian bigots, do you physically spit on their graves when you pass them, or do you prefer to keep the action metaphorical?

    August 5, 2010 at 2:30 am |
    • Jango Davis

      You make an excellent point. Those ignorant firefighters in the story are forgetting Muslims died on 9/11, not just a bunch of Christians.

      August 5, 2010 at 7:24 am |
  10. Adelle

    As long as fanaticism runs in their blood, they'll never change their skin...remember, blood runs thicker than water, and citizens or not, naturalized or not, Americanized or not, they will never change their ideals. In fact, any one muslim who says they are not related to terrorists, must have a brother, or an uncle, or a cousin, or a in-law who is. Thay have taken the teachings of the Quran and turned it into teachings of hatred towards other religions while promoting theirs forcefully in coutnries other than of muslim origin...we have to wake up and understand how these people think. We have to take care of our own and stand by to support or own and not fall prey into their hands. It is a shame that this had to come this far but you have my vote for rejecting this so-called ground of prayer next to where we lost thousands of innocent people – yes, of all nationalities and religion, all due to their fanatic, idealistic, ignorant and self-serving beliefs.

    August 5, 2010 at 2:30 am |
  11. Patrick A

    To all the idiots commenting here.
    Did you know that there is Already a Mosque in that location,lol.

    August 5, 2010 at 2:19 am |
    • MashaSobaka

      Oh thank God. I thought I was the only one who realized that.

      August 5, 2010 at 2:32 am |
  12. MB

    I think no enclosed structured should be built on Ground Zero! No mosque, church, temple!. Let there be an open air sort of architectural space where people from all walks of life and ideologies could come and spend a few moments of silence, prayer in which ever way they would feel connected to the Supreme Being.

    August 5, 2010 at 2:17 am |
  13. Bob

    The drug trade is more responsible for aiding Al-Quaida than Islam

    August 5, 2010 at 2:08 am |
  14. FreeInUSA

    Allah bless the ACLJ

    August 5, 2010 at 2:06 am |
  15. Momo

    I say build a mosque, a church and a synagogue side by side. Let the site become a center for interfaith discussions and knowledge. I'm really tired of the hate. Dont people get tired of being hateful? Of being scared of someone or something simply because they haven't taken the time to understand them? End the hate.

    August 5, 2010 at 1:57 am |
  16. Jill

    I'm a native New Yorker, living in Staten Island who worked downtown on 9/11 & after...I developed the same respiratory diseases as the 1st responders. I lost too many people that day and more since, from various diseases resulting from inhaling dust & debris. I continue to get sicker as time goes on. I have plenty of reasons and emotions to not want this mosque to be built – none of which will affect the outcome one way or another. If we want to effectively prevent this from occurring, we must act with intelligence and sensitivity. Random & emotional profanity-filled responses won't cut it. All it does is make us appear like one large pack of illiterate, uneducated, emotional fools. Do your homework, people! This is the time when we need you the most – to be at your top form – to get in the trenches and fight the good fight – with intelligence. Arm yourself with pertinent information and use it well. And do it NOW.

    The building in question has been seeking landmark status for years...why? Because it is a prime example of 19th century cast-iron architecture, one used extensively in the downtown areas, mostly in buildings used primarily for manufacture. That they have an intrinsic beauty and elegance is what you should be trying to preserve – because that is what Landmarks will respond to. Frankly, they don't give a horse's patoot about your emotional and profane rantings...you're in their ballpark, folks – so you'd better learn the rules of the game and level the playing field or you're going to get decimated, and quickly. What Landmarks has is a building owned by a group of people, who may (or may not) have purchased it legally (although the money trail should certainly become the subject of investigation) who want to demolish it and build a new building. What Landmarks needs is to find a way to LEGALLY prevent this from happening so that the city is not open to a lawsuit from the people who are so entitled (read- the owners, the Cordoba Initiative or whatever they're calling themselves.) Get it? That's not to say that public opinion CAN'T sway the final decision – but we must present the right arguments about things that matter – like the type of architecture (mid-to-late 19th century cast-iron, which should be preserved as part of our city's history) Like the brownstones that were razed during the 60's blitz of urban renewal, once the cast-iron beauties are gone, they cannot be replaced. (For those of you who don't know architecture from Adam, the loft that Demi Moore & Patrick Swayze lived in, in the movie "Ghost" was a cast-iron building – just so you have an idea of what I'm talking about here.)

    If you want to achieve success in this endeavor, namely, preventing this mosque from being built, you have to go about it the right way – by presenting valid arguments, without prejudice, racial or religious, regarding the real issue which will eventually decide the outcome. I have faith in my fellow New Yorkers and fellow Americans – I believe that they can and will arm themselves with the proper information and wield it wisely...and act with all the intelligence they posess – to present a major stand against the injustice that is being perpetrated against us by this insensitive and disrespectful attempt. We can and must do it – using the 'big guns' of intelligent strategy – aimed at the right targets – to win this war. Because America does NOT want to become Islamized, no matter how much Islam wants it. And our city's cultural heritage (in the form of cast-iron buildings) must be preserved and revered for the architectural and historical gems that they are.

    August 5, 2010 at 1:52 am |
    • SR

      Thank you for that beautiful message. Can you please forward your message as an email to ACLJ mentioned in the story above? May be they can try using your ideas to stop this idea. I and many other people on this site would appreciate your lead in this endeavor. Thanks.

      August 5, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  17. George

    It is clear from the postings on this issue and others concerning Islam, that the majority of Americans do not trust Muslims, and never will. Stay the course brothers. They mean to destroy us from within.

    August 5, 2010 at 1:44 am |
    • Momo

      Yes, we all secretly crave to make the US another version of Iran or Saudi Arabia.. in fact we cant wait until all the hot women in this country cover up in Burqas!!!.. (Im being sarcastic if you havent figured out by now). Dude, the muslims in this country want what everbody else from the US wants.. to live in F'n peace. To make this country better i..e get rid of crime, poverty etc contribute to society just like normal people man. Its obvious you probably have never ever met or even talked to a muslim but its REALLY REALLY sad that you think that muslims who come here want to "destroy" it.

      August 5, 2010 at 2:12 am |
    • Americano

      remove the blind fold off your eyes and listen to the truth


      September 14, 2010 at 9:12 am |
  18. George

    Stand up America, and demand from your legislators an end to Islamic immigration to America. End Islamic immigration to America now, as a war measure.

    August 5, 2010 at 1:42 am |
  19. George

    We are in a holy crusade protecting ourselves against Islam that will go on until the end of time, and in fact will probably be the catalyst for the end of time.

    August 5, 2010 at 1:37 am |
  20. Ronnie Harper

    Americans should be outraged that religion isn't taxed like other smarmy businesses. Instead of 'mosques' we should be building schools and instead of religion we should be discussing philosophy and cosmology. Wake up, smacktards.

    August 5, 2010 at 1:20 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.