Mayor Bloomberg gets it right.
I think this part of his speech is key:
The simple fact is this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship. The government has no right whatsoever to deny that right – and if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question – should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another.
I like this as well:
Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values – and play into our enemies’ hands – if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists – and we should not stand for that. For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime – as important a test – and it is critically important that we get it right.
And this part of the mayor’s speech is also worth highlighting:
[I]t is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our City even closer together and help repudiate the false and repugnant idea that the attacks of 9/11 were in any way consistent with Islam. Muslims are as much a part of our City and our country as the people of any faith and they are as welcome to worship in Lower Manhattan as any other group. In fact, they have been worshipping at the site for the better part of a year, as is their right.
Mayor Bloomberg deserves loud applause from all who love the Enlightenment and its core political principle: citizens are individuals, not blood and soil ethnic or religious groups upon whom we apportion collective guilt, praise, or blame. By contrast, this is a low moment for our Herderian Tea Party nationalists: their profession of love for America’s Constitution is a total sham. Their hysterical response to a mosque two blocks from ground zero reveals it, and thus is clarifying and informative. The majority of Tea Partiers are showing that they are driven by the crassest and most dangerous ethnic politics and sectarian enthusiasms. Bloomberg is showing America at its best; the Herderian Tea Partiers at its worst.