No foolish consistency here: or any other kind

The groups pushing to stop Cordoba House usually argue against the use of zoning to restrict church-building. Gee, I wonder what’s different in this case?

And yes, in case you hadn’t guessed, some of the groups leading the charge against Cordoba House have previously fought hard in court to prevent local zoning from being used to prevent church-building. I guess they hold religious liberty and private property rights as purely tactical ploys:  which is pretty much what I’d always suspected. It doesn’t bother me to find the usual Christocrats pulling this crap; but it’s deeply depressing to find what used to be the Anti-Defamation League joining in the defamation.

Footnote And where’s the anti-Kelo crowd? If any of the folks who wanted to more or less lynch Justice Souter has spoken out against denying a property owner the right to build a structure of his choice on the land he has bought, I have yet to see it. Megan McArdle sneers at Michael Bloomberg – a hero in my book – for having “suddenly discovered that there are some restrictions on the government’s ability to dictate the uses of private property,” and Glenn Reynolds links approvingly. But if either of them, or any of the Volokh Conspirators, has protested at the appalling carnival of bigotry now being played out, I must have missed it.  Jacob Sullum at Reason and Steve Chapman seem to be holding the fort alone for consistent supporters of individual and property rights.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

14 thoughts on “No foolish consistency here: or any other kind”

  1. Possible food for thought and discussion, on an issue which, I admit, I have only barely followed.

    Imagine that some Christian fundamentalist extremist had detonated an Oklahoma-City-style bomb at an Islamic Mosque, killing 200 or so worshipers and destroying the building. Let's say that the surviving community decided to build some sort of memorial there. A few years later the land right next to the memorial became available and some fundamentalist Christian church bought it and said they were going to build their house of worship there.

    Two things I am very sure of: First, a number of those who had lost friends and/or family members in the bombing would say that they would find such a church, located right next to their memorial, to be offensive. And a number of us on the political left would be saying that those wanting to build the new church should think about how these offended Muslims feel, should try to understand where they are coming from, etc. (I say "us" not because I'm sure I'd be saying this, but because I'm on the political [moderate] left.)

    As I said, I am sure of those two things. Yet in NYC, with the situation (it seems to me) essentially reversed, I can't say I'm hearing any similar calls from the left for such empathy. Have I just not been following closely enough? Or is the situation essentially not similar to my example?

    Thoughts?

  2. I have not been following this controversy much either, but I have read that the mosque would be two blocks from ground zero. Doesn't that make a difference? What degree of proximity would be acceptable to the opponents of the mosque?

  3. Well, Henry, Ann Coulter said we should wipe out Islam, and a Republican gubernatorial hopeful just called Islam a cult, so I'd guess they don't really want there to be any mosques anywhere.

  4. Dan D: It sounds to me an apt analogy could be a YMCA. The "mosque" here sounds more like a chapel in that it is a room designated for worship.

    More to the point, if a small group of crazy people are allowed to hijack the identity and honor of a large and well established population we are all in trouble. What if some radical group claiming to be fighting for America, bombed the British parliment and Buckingham Palace. Would all Americans be responsible? Many Brits might be angry at Americans in general but that doesn't mean it should infringe on the rights and privilages of US citizens in UK.

  5. I think it's worth pointing out that there were Muslims among those who perished at the World Trade Center. I imagine their survivors' grief is as deep as anyone else's.

    For argument's sake, let's assume the Cordoba House is indeed being planned for this site as a giant nose-thumbing. Am I the only one who had a mother who repeatedly counseled me to ignore my siblings' attempts to rile me up (as she also advised my siblings about my behaviors)? It's only an insult if you make it one. Just shrug your shoulders, say "So what?" and move on.

  6. I'm not sure that two blocks away actually counts as "right next to". Close enough, I suppose.

    In any event, this objector to the Kelo decision has consistently said of the NYC mosque, that it may well be intended as a provocation, but that it's constitutionally protected even if it is. And that's the end of the matter.

  7. Dan D writes: Imagine that some Christian fundamentalist extremist had detonated an Oklahoma-City-style bomb at an Islamic Mosque, killing 200 or so worshipers and destroying the building. Let’s say that the surviving community decided to build some sort of memorial there. A few years later the land right next to the memorial became available and some fundamentalist Christian church bought it and said they were going to build their house of worship there.

    OK, if you want to explore that kind of hypothetical, let's at least make it a closer parallel:

    Imagine that some Christian fundamentalist extremist had detonated an Oklahoma-City-style bomb at an office building in a predominantly Muslim area, killing 200 or so employees and visitors and destroying the building. Let’s say that the surviving community decided to build some sort of memorial there. A few years later a parcel a couple of blocks away from the site became available and some moderate Christian group advocating increased tolerance and improved Christian/Muslim relations bought it and said they were going to build a multiuse facility including a chapel, offices, fitness center, child care, performing arts center, and food court.

    Doesn't sound quite so awful, now, does it?

  8. Moslems bombed a building and murdered 3,000 people, then Moslems built one of their unnecessary mosques near-by. Most people who aspire to tolerance adopt an attitude of empty-headedness, so they pretend not to see the symbolism here, a symbolsim that Moslems all around the world will surely see, and will quote the Koran to demonstrate. Take my word for it: they see this as the spread of Islam. They see yet another civilization that has been frightened into dhimmitude.

    "…a multiuse facility including a chapel, offices, fitness center…". I hope everyone is geared up for the predictable law-suits against women using the fitness center in front of Moslem men.

  9. @Dom: on what basis do you determine that a mosque is "unnecessary"? The First Amendment prohibits the state–that is, the majority–from deciding whether and how a religious minority can practice its minority religion.

  10. Kelly, that was not an important point. It was a sneer to all religions. All places of worship seem unnecessary to me.

  11. J: You misread me a bit. In my hypothetical, the building of the church wasn't "awful". My point was that there would be voices on the left calling for empathy, for trying to understand where the critics of the new building are coming from.

    J, Henry, Fred, and others: Do the differences that y'all correctly pointed out — most importantly 'church vs. office building' but also distance (2 blocks) and the nature of the building (the YMCA analogy) — do these factors adequately explain why there's no "try to think how the relatives of victims feel" coming from the left?

    As for the issue of legal right, I'm not addressing that at all. The right to build the center is not, nor should it be, at all in doubt.

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