Thursday, August 5, 2010

Assessing Decision-making on the NYC Islamic Center: Continuing Our Tradition of Religious Liberty

by Melissa Rogers

The Brookings Institution
August 4, 2010

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission announced yesterday that it will not designate the building at 45-51 Park Place in lower Manhattan as an historic landmark. The building, which is two blocks north of Ground Zero, does not have the architectural or historic significance to merit such a designation, the Commission unanimously said. While a decision like this normally would not draw national attention, this one already has because it essentially clears the way for the owners of the property to tear down the existing structure and build an Islamic center there.

This decision is one of several in which New York City officials have taken care to treat the planned Islamic center the same way they would treat plans for a YMCA or Jewish community center in this space. In so doing, these officials have honored core dictates of religious freedom.

Especially because other local leaders across the nation are facing related issues, it’s worth looking at the excellent example set by New York City’s officials. And with the battle for public opinion over the planned Islamic center still very much in play, an assessment of that debate also is in order.