NY’s mainline Protestant leaders support proposed downtown Islamic center

It’s taken a while, but New York’s mainline Protestant leaders have issued statements about the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero.

No great surprises here. The NY bishops of the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church all gently support the project, while acknowledging the pain still felt by so many.

I’ll paste their full statements below.

United Methodist Bishop Jeremiah Park declares his support for the project, writing that “denying the fundamental right of a religious community, as long as it fulfills the same legal requirements applied to all other religious communities, by singling it out for the wrong reasons, compromises the integrity of who we are at our core.”

He also writes: “Our hearts break over the sacrifice of the dead from 9/11 and the pains and sufferings of their loved ones and our country. However, to truly honor them, to truly preserve the historic significance of the Ground Zero, and to truly triumph over the evil force of 9/11, it is necessary to stand firm on what America believes in and be willing to pay whatever the price to protect and preserve freedom and equality for all.”

ELCA Bishop Robert Rimbo doesn’t offer the same outright pledge of support, but concludes with this: “There is much pain very near the surface of our emotions with regard to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. But how will preventing this center from being constructed help us to deal with that pain? There is great fear driving our lives today. How do persons of faith respond to that fear? We commend ourselves to the reliable and merciful arms of the God of Abraham, the God whom Jesus calls Abba, the God whom Muslims and Christians in various parts of the world call Allah. This God promises a reign in which all shall be well. Our faith is bigger and stronger than all our fears.”

Italics mine. Sure sounds like he is in favor getting beyond the fear and building the place.

Finally, Episcopal Bishop Mark Sisk, as I noted last week, wrote a public letter supporting the Islamic center. It includes this: “The plan to build this center is, without doubt, an emotionally highly-charged issue. But as a nation with tolerance and religious freedom at its very foundation, we must not let our emotions lead us into the error of persecuting or condemning an entire religion for the sins of its most misguided adherents.”

Of course, Archbishop Tim Dolan has offered to be a conciliatory voice, but has stopped short of taking a position. In a recent blog post, he wrote: “Although I have no strong sentiment about what should be decided about the eventual where of the Islamic Center, I do have strong convictions about how such a discussion should be reached: civilly and charitably.  The hot-heads on either side must not dominate.”

Here are the full UMC, ELCA and Episcopal Church statements… Continue reading

Most NYers oppose Islamic center — but defend the right to build it

New Yorkers have very mixed impulses about the proposed Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero.

According to a new poll from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., New Yorkers agreed — by a 54% to 40% margin — with this statement: “that because of American freedom of religion, Muslims have the right to build the mosque near Ground Zero…”

At the same time, though, respondents agreed — by a 53% to 39% margin — with this statement: “that because of the sensitivities of 9/11 relatives, Muslims should not be allowed to build the mosque near Ground Zero.”

In the end, poll respondents prefer that the developers CHOOSE to move the site, which makes sense if you consider the above results.

By a large 71% to 21% percent majority, voters agree “that because of the opposition of Ground Zero relatives, the Muslim group should voluntarily build the mosque somewhere else. (italics mine)”

Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, explains: “The heated, sometimes angry, debate over the proposal to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero has New York State voters twisted in knots, with some of them taking contradictory positions depending on how the question is asked.”

He also says: “Overwhelmingly, across all party and regional lines, New Yorkers say the sponsors ought to voluntarily move the proposed mosque to another location.”

According to the poll, New Yorkers  (meaning across the state) agree that Islam is a peaceful religion, by a 54-21 margin (with 24% undecided).

The “peaceful” numbers vary across the state: 62-21 in NYC; 51-25 in the Burbs; and 49-28 upstate.

Finally, respondents overwhelmingly said — 71  to 22 percent — that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo should investigate the financing of the proposed Islamic center.