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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. Robrob

    It's not a mosque and it's not being built at "ground zero."

    Otherwise right on the money...

    August 5, 2010 at 7:23 am |
  2. Jango Davis

    The reaction is raist, no matter what that firefighter says. Prayer services are already held on the sight, just no one knew until they decided to build a new building.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:20 am |
  3. Reality

    As per the following, Homeland Security should close all US mosques:

    Muslim convert journalist Stephen Schwartz, American Jewish Committee terrorism expert Yehudit Barsky, and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer have all separately testified to a growing radical Islamist Wahhabi influence in U.S. mosques, financed by extremist groups. According to Barsky, 80% of U.S. mosques are so radicalized.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:10 am |
  4. Delbert

    I believe New York to be one of America's strongest communities and I just can't see their beautiful citizens allowing this $100million monument to get past the foundation stage. I hope these Muslims know what and who they're going up against in attempting to build this atrocity in their back yard. The security alone is going to come close to costing them double what they're projecting in their costs. Remember America's response to Pearl Harbor?

    August 5, 2010 at 6:56 am |
  5. akm tarike

    MAJORITY MUSLIM DONT BELIFE 911 ACT OF MUSLIM WOLRD UNLESS THERE IS A VALID PROOF AND INVESIGATION DONE BY TRUTH COMMISSION THIS IS DAM TRUTH ITS TRUTH THOSE CULPRIT COULD BE MUSLIM BUT MUSLIM ARE NOT ALLOW TO BELIFE CHRISTIAN OR JEWS THERE ENIMY OF ISLAM WHAT DO YOU WANT SAY THOSE WHO WENT IRAQ AFGANHISTAN THERE CHRISTIAN OR BAD CHRISTIAN BETTER TELL YOUR OBAMA KICK OUT ALL MUSLIM IN THE USA THAT WAY UR NOT GONE HAVE A ANY PROBLEM AND DONT DESTROY OTHER COUNTRY OTHER PEOPLE LIFE.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:39 am |
  6. ybs

    all religions are one big pile of dung! christianity and islam are the 2 biggest contributors.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:36 am |
  7. Dara Khan

    I am a muslim, I know that personally muslims died on 9/11. I also know that many Christians, Jewish, and Muslim people were injured on that horrific day, not just in NYC but throughout the country. Read the list of the heroes of 9/11 and you will find many Muslims as well that died, and I don't mean the terrorists.
    This is ridiculous that we are even having this discussion in the land of the free and the brave. On 9/11 the world trade center was not the only attack caused by these ruthless terrorists. On 9/11, Islam became hijacked as well. As an American, a convert to Islam, I am disgusted by the actions of these extremists and call for their true justice.
    Not all Muslims are extremists, if that's the case then you as the reader should view me as a terrorist? I think not. It is funny how ignorant a few are against the true origin and principals of Islam. I think many Christians and Jewish followers would be shocked if they knew that the Torah and the Bible are part of the Islamic faith, my faith. I think many Christians would be shocked to learn that Muslims as Christians believe that Jesus will walk the earth again and return for the day of resurrection, and that Muslims as Christians will face the day of Judgement, equally naked before God "Allah", accountable for their actions.
    I hear in the media all the time that the Islamic community is not doing enough to condone the acts of terrorism, or that they aren't speaking out against extremism.
    Reality check, building a community center in the target of one of the worst disasters in America, to foster community, understanding, and hopefully tolerance is the greatest honor and compliment that could ever be accomplished by this project. For once it will be the start of hopefully many, to be built across America to bring people of multiple faiths together.
    This reminds me of my ignorance as an American abroad when I met a woman from IRAN at an airport and I said Salaam. I looked at her and judged her before I spoke further with her. In 5 short minutes I learned that she was Jewish and that in Iran there are many Jewish settlements.
    Perhaps, if we as Americans, stop judging people from the spin we get from listening to the media, we could find harmony amongst humankind and the freedom to practice religion without persecution or judgement.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:34 am |
    • Wake-Up

      DARA KHAN:

      "In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American ... There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag ... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language ... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

      Theodore Roosevelt 1907

      August 5, 2010 at 8:19 am |
    • CnnAfrika

      Hey Dara Khan, you are not the only muslim here, OK? We can't say bcos we are in the land of freedom and that makes us not to know what is right from wrong, we all knew there are muslims and christians, jews that died during the 9/11 but the question is why we muslims are insisting on building a mosque in that particular place? if you are a true muslim, definitely you knew what it's meant by building a mosque there, that this is tha land that we conquered and subdue, we both knew it lets face the fact, since there are ppl from other religion that died during 9/11 why not the jews or christians come up with the plan of building a church or jews workship place in that particular place, no one said we cannot have mosque in downtown NY but not at that particular place, let us respect other people thoughts.

      August 5, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  8. Andy

    Oh, oh, i know, lets knock down the church ACROSS THE STREET from wtc. Freedom of religion is a basic right in this country. Get over it.

    – A

    August 5, 2010 at 6:30 am |
  9. Jason

    This is ridiculous as long as it isn't funded by the state I do not care.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:25 am |
  10. Moefugger

    Leave them a little surprise
    Put pig blood in the mortar and cement.
    Put porkchop bones in the foundation.
    Drop a pig head into the concrete flooring.
    Mix pig fat in the paint.
    Put pig feet in the walls.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:07 am |
  11. FrankLW

    Regardless of claims of “building bridges” by the center’s founders, fundamentalist Muslims can only read such a center as being a victory monument – and this will serve to embolden wannabe terrorists – aside from providing them food and shelter when they make their celebratory pilgrimages to Ground Zero and plot their next atrocities.

    August 5, 2010 at 6:01 am |
  12. FrankLW

    Even the landmark declaration cannot stop this center from being developed there.
    Surely there must be some other legal mechanism to stop it, like a gubernatorial or federal directive of some sort.

    The very name “Cordoba Initiative” perhaps reveals the actual intent of this Islamic center. When the Muslims conquered Cordoba in the 7th century they built a large mosque on the site of a Christian cathedral they had demolished. Islam did this in Mecca and Medina and built the Dome of the Rock and its Al Aqsa mosque precisely on the site of the destroyed holy temple of the Jews in Jerusalem.

    The intent seems to be to erect yet another Muslim victory monument as close as possible, and within view of, the ashes of the WTC.

    This is evidenced by the “religious leader” of the initiative, the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who, rather than “building bridges”, seems to be a fundamentalist Muslim interested in burning them. After 9/11 he said “United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened” and he refuses to condemn the mass murdering Hamas terror organization that targets civilians and celebrates their murder (which means he IS condemning their victims).

    We are in a war with radical Islam and as such it is necessary at times to suspend ordinary liberties – particularly allowing an enemy monument, propaganda and recruitment center to rise at our nation’s financial capital and particularly where such a structure will encourage new terrorist wannabes and bring pain to many survivors and next of kin to the fallen. Let’s open our eyes!!

    August 5, 2010 at 5:51 am |
  13. richard

    In fact, there are several Japanese Buddhist temples within a few miles of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. The Izumo Taisha shrine, in particular, is interesting because it was taken over by the US Government after the attacks and not returned to its owners as a place of worship until 1961. It has since become a place of pilgrimage and reconciliation- Japanese schoolchildren visit annually in a mission of peace and cultural understanding. Which is what the Corboba Initiative is setting out to do. There goes history repeating itself.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:26 am |
  14. Chris

    The people who brought this lawsuit are embarrassing themselves. They might as well tattoo "I am an ignorant bigot" on their forehead.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:24 am |
  15. richard

    There are a number of Japanese restaurants within a few miles of the USS Arizona Memorial. Should I be outraged by this as well?

    August 5, 2010 at 5:16 am |
  16. INTERESTEDPARTY

    I'm not sure if everyone is aware of this issue. THEY ARE GOING TO INAUGURATE SEPTEMBER 11,2011. LOL. It's just too interesting.

    August 5, 2010 at 5:12 am |
  17. yabu-ubay

    if this mosque is ever built, in my opinion, the musilms who sponsered the money will consider this another victory again'st the us.! i say this because from what i've been reading on different web sites, the money is being provided by terorist groups! but if it is ever built, i'll bet you that it will be bombed off the face of ny,city by a secret organization!, and believe me or not it will happen! why you might ask? because of RETALIATION,THAT IS WHY!

    August 5, 2010 at 4:58 am |
  18. Malik

    I am a Muslim and i think this location is in bad taste......i would never go to pray at this mosque.......Why push the issue....what are we trying to prove in the good old USA........

    August 5, 2010 at 4:26 am |
  19. passthebs

    Lets stop prentending like muslims are tolerant people. They're not, non-tolerance is preached in islamic scripture along with strict, rules and guidelines. America dont let political correctness blind you from the ugly reality. The motives behind the building of the mosque are really unknown.. I would like to see who is responsible forspearheading this project in the first place. A 13 story mosque in the most expensive city in the world? Who is funding this, where is the cash comming from? We will never know til its too late.

    August 5, 2010 at 4:17 am |
  20. Oleg

    You build monuments to your religion, nation or culture where it has seen it's finest hours. Elsewhere you discreetly exercise your rights to freedom of self expression without getting in people's face. It would be perfectly reasonable to have an american consulate in Hiroshima, but I would hope it wouldn't be a pompous building with a huge flag. This project requring a permit and making national news doesn't speak of a good taste.

    August 5, 2010 at 4:04 am |
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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.