A Christian legal group representing thousands of Americans opposed to the building of an Islamic mosque near Ground Zero has urged New York City officials to grant landmark status to the current building on the site.
The American Center for Law and Justice contends in a written testimony to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission that the building at 45-47 Park Place should be considered a landmark because the landing gear of one of the hijacked planes on 9/11 fell through its roof. The site of 45-47 Park Place is where The Cordoba Initiative wants to build a 13-story, $100 million Muslim community center.
"We're concerned that the City of New York is trying to fast-track and sidestep a well-documented process in order to clear the way for this sacred site to be used as a location to build an Islamic mosque," expressed Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, in a statement.
"We urge city officials to reject the pressures of political correctness and embrace common sense," said Sekulow. "This is not the place to build a mosque. It's time to approve a landmark designation that will preserve the historical integrity of this building."
ACLJ is currently representing Tim Brown, a firefighter and first responder who survived the 911 attacks on the Twin Towers and lost nearly 100 friends in the tragedy. The legal group also represents thousands of Americans who signed on to the Committee to Stop the Ground Zero Mosque.
Opponents of the Ground Zero mosque proposal argue that it is insensitive to build just two blocks from spot where the Twin Towers once stood a place of worship to the same religion that 9/11 terrorists cite as their motivation for the attacks.
Islamic experts, meanwhile, say a mosque near the 9/11 site would be a powerful political statement that Islam is here.
Supporters of the Ground Zero mosque proposal, however, both Muslims and non-Muslims, say allowing the Islamic cultural center construction would improve interfaith relations and demonstrate religious tolerance.
Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar, argues that officials should allow the Ground Zero mosque to be built because it shows the terrorists have not changed one of America's core values – religious tolerance.
"[I]f the enemy is terrorism, then we should realize that we only incite and inspire that enemy when we act as if we are at war with Islam," Prothero wrote on CNN Belief Blog.
To those that say the Cordoba mosque would be too close to Ground Zero, Prothero says it would be too far.
"I believe a small mosque ought to be integrated into the redesign of the World Trade Center site itself – a reminder in steel and stone that the United States is not at war either with Islam or with our core values," proposed Prothero.
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is expected to vote on the landmark status of the building currently on the proposed mosque site in August.