How the Religious Right Made the Ground Zero Mosque Possible

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 16 2010 1:27 PM

How the Religious Right Made the Ground Zero Mosque Possible

In an interview just now, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform made a point about the "ground zero mosque" controversy that I hadn't heard before. One reason that opponents are going to have trouble legally preventing Park51 from building its Muslim cultural center is that, in 2000, a Republican Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act . It's not that this was a partisan effort. It passed by voice vote in the House and Senate, and was helped through the higher body by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). The goal of the legislation, supported by a coalition of religious groups, was to respond to the Supreme Court's ruling in Employment Division Department of Human Resources v. Smith and give churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship more power in disputes with local and municipal authorities.

"This was one of the great victories of the religious right," said Norquist. "And now some people want to scrap it to make this point?"

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There's only one lawsuit that I'm aware of against New York City, making the argument that the commission which approved the mosque did not take into consideration the feelings of people who might be offended by it. It comes from the American Center for Law and Justice, which has this helpful explainer of the 2000 Act.

LUIPA is a lawdesigned to protect religious assemblies and institutions from zoningand historic landmark laws that substantially interfere with theassemblies' and institutions' religious exercise. It also protectsindividuals and religious institutions, including churches, mosques,and synagogues, in their use of land and buildings for religiouspurposes.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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