Bloomberg's Conservative Argument for the Ground Zero Mosque

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Michael Bloomberg offered an eloquent defense yesterday of the Cordoba Initiative/American Society for Muslim Advancement mosque and community center near the former site of the World Trade Center, and for a more holistic take on the value of the speech, see James Fallows's post on it from last night; the whole transcript, posted here by the New York Daily News' Adam Lisberg, is worth a read.

But in the way of piecemeal political observation, here's one significant part, where Bloomberg makes an essentially conservative argument, warning that it's not the role of government to impinge upon property rights:

"The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and 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. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan."

Reasons and motivations for opposing the Ground Zero mosque are varied, and many of them have nothing to do with political ideology, but it's fair to say that most of the criticism has come from the right. (Joe Lieberman and the Anti-Defamation League are quite notable exceptions.) But Bloomberg, an independent, makes it not just about freedom of religion, but about constitutional protections against government overreach regarding private property, addressing some of those critics in markedly conservative terms.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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