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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. JNAG12

    What is really the big deal everyone? I understand your point, as a civilian and non-politician to be upset about this, especially after 9/11. Fact is though, is that us as Americans allegedly hate these Muslims, because of our governments interest, and what is has done to come between Americans and Middle Easterners. What we don't see, is that our government does not hate Muslims, and in fact, favors them in many ways more then they do us. We are allies with more Muslim countries then any other 'Christian' country in the world, we are sending our boys to die daily, so they can have a better life, as ours falls apart, we make decisions that send our tax money to build them schools and feed them, while ours here in America fail. So, who hates Muslims, not our government, you. And what, everyone, are you going to do about it? One day you will see, Islamaphobia is strictly coming from the lower class and middle class, our top officials bask in the sunny warm thought of being partners with all Muslims and their financial assets one day, while we die thinking they are our enemy. Open your eyes.

    August 5, 2010 at 8:35 am |
  2. beck

    Go Tim Brown, alot of good people will be there with you! New Yorkers are stronger then ever after the 9-11 attack!

    August 5, 2010 at 8:30 am |
  3. Brett

    I don't get why they want to build there in the first place... For a faith that is supposed to be based on peace, you'd think they'd want to build a mosque somewhere with a less dramatic history of terror and violence. Makes you think that maybe they are building it for the wrong reasons. Since this country is tolerant, they can get away with it, that's a fact. But should they even try? Isn't that the real question? Just because they can doesn't mean they should, and if they were really as peaceful as they claim to be, they wouldn't be intentionally trying to upset Americans by building something that we see as a threat near our country's most heart-breaking and pain-inducing memorial.

    August 5, 2010 at 8:30 am |
  4. MarkinFL

    Why are so many people trying to bring Saudi Arabia into this? Are they so ignorant as to think it is the only Muslim country? Is this mosque being created and run by Saudis?
    Also, why are so many Americans clamoring to act like SA. Are they so impressed with the way SA suppresses other religions that they are jealous and want to be just like them?
    It is difficult to see so many people being so un-American in their response a vicious attack on our soil

    August 5, 2010 at 8:30 am |
  5. Mim

    Cattle! How do you prevent from having our president win another election?
    Spark a debate that will reach the White House and at the end one small side is happy. Great, build a mosque at Ground Zero because we're tolerant and politicians at the same time! Republicans play better chess than Democrats, few moves ahead!

    August 5, 2010 at 8:29 am |
  6. Romas

    This lawsuit is very ignorant. All it does is help spread the notion that the USA is populated by uneducated people that want to tell everyone what to do. Where is the hue and cry about Oklahoma City? An American did that terrorist attack, so shouldn't we ban all things American near that ground-zero? Well that's not any more stupid of an idea than what all these right-wing extremists want in New York City.

    August 5, 2010 at 8:28 am |
  7. Surthurfurd

    We have our own version of the Taliban in the US.
    The Taliban twist Islamic teaching to serve their social, political, and worldly purposes. They condemn all those who disagree with them as if they are against the totality of Islam. They will violate the very ideals as noted by their religion if it secures them power.

    Yes, we have our own version here.. and they claim to be Christians and US patriots.

    August 5, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  8. Surthurfurd

    I see that many Americans feel they can lie, deceive, and engage in all sorts of shallow behavior in defense of their "way of life." Sounds like we have learned our lesson well.

    August 5, 2010 at 8:22 am |
  9. Wake-Up

    Theodore Roosevelt's ideas on Immigrants and being an AMERICAN in 1907.

    "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 8:16 am |
  10. oldbones

    Wasn't there a Christian church that went down in 911? The city won't let them rebuild so why let a different church be built?

    August 5, 2010 at 8:14 am |
  11. Josh

    The mosque will be two blocks away. In NYC, that's a pretty major division.

    What gets me is that the ACLJ and Tim Brown are deceiving the public by playing off that the mosque is like directly across the street from the WTC site. It isn't. And if the ACLJ and Tim Brown feel that their only "shot" is to deceive the public, then clearly they acknowledge that with the truth alone, they stand no chance at all.

    August 5, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  12. Surthurfurd

    Why do people who oppose this center / mosque seem to think their religious rights include the right to limit other's rights?

    When we generalize to blame all of a group for the actions of some of its members; we are thinking with the same ignorance as al Queda uses to attack civilians. Of course, many US citizens only have problems with al Queda and the Taliban and their methods because it threatens us.

    August 5, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  13. qotu

    The lack of sensitivity that has been displayed by the Islamic community is unbelievable. They know what an insult it is to put this center that close to the spot where Islamic terrorists killed 3,000 people. If this isn't an insult to Americans, it is an attempt to slap their faces. These people should respect how the overall American culture finds this insulting and move their building at least a mile away. They can't preach peace and understanding after this.

    August 5, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  14. Wake-Up

    I can not believe there are people still protecting the muslims and their mosque. You people are taking the word TOLERANCE to a fault. You are twisting what FREEDOM is as well. NO ONE is free to force people to believe their religion or die. There should be no TOLERANCE for people that stone or cut off the nose of women who make human mistakes. This is what you are protecting. Why are they trying to change our country into a place they say is bad and that's why they came here? What has blinded you people in seeing the truth? Has this group 100% denounced the destruction of the WTC and the people that did it? History shows that a MOSQUE IS BUILT AS A SIGN OF VICTORY over their enemies. They believe all of the muslims that died at the WTC have been martyred. Please people open your eyes.

    August 5, 2010 at 8:08 am |
  15. Madman

    I have no problems with this, as long as we can put up a statue of G. W. Bush on top of the cube in Mecca.

    August 5, 2010 at 8:02 am |
  16. chan

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/Afghanistan-bleeding-18-yr-olds-nose-ears-cut-off-for-fleeing-abusive-husband/articleshow/6261458.cms

    August 5, 2010 at 7:58 am |
  17. chan

    The following people are Terrorists: Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews. Period.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:53 am |
    • chan

      I would like to go to supreme court to decide which god is better. I think they will say all are equal. Then I will ask how do they know. Hee... Hee... I win. I believe in GOD but not in any RELIGION.

      August 5, 2010 at 7:56 am |
  18. Methusalem

    The influence and importance of Buddhism and the great civilization in the Indian state of Bihar declined, after the very first university in the world was sacked in 1193 by a Muslim Turkic general – apparently incensed that its library may not have contained a copy of the Koran.

    So the general was offended that an older, more advanced civilization than his own could have the heretical impertinence to regard his precious holy book as worthless and irrelevant, and so decided to destroy it in order to assert the supremacy of his own religion and culture.

    Some things never change. I think we can see similar examples of Islamic cultural envy in the world today, motivating similar acts of mindless destruction, but this time directed against western European and American culture. Some people simply cannot tolerate the humiliating thought that other cultures might be superior to their own...

    August 5, 2010 at 7:39 am |
  19. Methusalem

    The influence and importance of Buddhism and the great civilization in the Indian state of Bihar declined, after the very first university in the world was sacked in 1193 by a Muslim Turkic general – apparently incensed that its library may not have contained a copy of the Koran."

    So the general was offended that an older, more advanced civilization than his own could have the heretical impertinence to regard his precious holy book as worthless and irrelevant, and so decided to destroy it in order to assert the supremacy of his own religion and culture.

    Some things never change. I think we can see similar examples of Islamic cultural envy in the world today, motivating similar acts of mindless destruction, but this time directed against western European and American culture. Some people simply cannot tolerate the humiliating thought that other cultures might be superior to their own...

    August 5, 2010 at 7:39 am |
    • SR

      Methusalem: Wow. Thank you for that beautiful fact of history.

      My fellow Americans, on't be deceived by this "smokescreen" of islamic piety and peacefulness. Ask any moderate muslim whther he respects a Hindu God or their temple and you will get a stare. Not one of them have the tolerance in them to respect other religions or their Gods. At least now, with this act of confrontation and in your face, supremacism, both moderate and extreme islamists have their faces ripped off for all the world to see: the ugly face of islam.

      I thank God for the imam to have started the glorious decline of islam that has begun.

      August 5, 2010 at 7:45 pm |
  20. Wank Spankly

    "The ACLJ, a legal advocacy group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson..."

    Does anything else need to be said?

    August 5, 2010 at 7:29 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.