A former church once given landmark status located in upstate New York will soon lose its crosses as an organization seeks to convert the structure into a mosque.
The Historic Preservation Board of the city of Syracuse has given the North Side Learning Center, an organization largely comprised of Muslims, permission to remove the crosses.
In a vote taken Thursday morning, the board approved the request of the organization to make changes to the church property, including the removal of the crosses and the addition of a fence.
Yusuf Soule, volunteer executive director with the North Side Learning Center, told The Christian Post that their intention is to turn the former church into a "masjid" or mosque.
"As it is going to become a masjid, crosses are not an appropriate representations of the religion of Islam," said Soule.
Soule explained that "NSLC bought the property of three buildings and it was suggested to us by community members" to convert the structure "for the Muslim population on the north side of Syracuse."
"The former church will become a masjid, the former rectory will house offices of nonprofits and the school will become the new NSLC."
Holy Trinity Catholic Church was built by German immigrants over a century ago who topped the structure with six crosses.
Eventually the church closed in 2010. The property, which included the church and two other buildings, was purchased by the NSLC last December for $150,000.
News of the NSLC's intention to remove the crosses and turn the church into a mosque garnered many headlines, with various news organizations labeling them a "Muslim group."
When asked by CP if the NSLC was a Muslim organization, Soule responded that it is, in one respect, but not another.
"Some of the board members of the NSLC are Muslims, and the majority of students who are at the NSLC to learn English and other academic and work-related skills are Muslims also," said Soule.
"One could characterize the NSLC as a Muslim organization, but only in so much as we have Muslim leadership and students."
In addition to critical outside attention, some locals also took issue with the board's approving the decision to remove the crosses.
One local, whose family had attended Holy Trinity while it remained opened, said to a Syracuse-based publication that the board's decision was not good landmark preservation.
"To change the craftsmanship, character and design of this building is not in keeping with landmark preservation," said the individual.
Alexander Marion, spokesperson for the city of Syracuse, told CP that the board approved a "resolution" requesting a "certificate of appropriateness" for the property regarding the crosses and the fence.
Marion added that the city "does not have an opinion on issues like this."
"Based on guidelines they have, they looked up to New York state law, city ordinances, and New York preservation standards by the Department of the Interior for how to make such decisions," said Marion.
"Essentially, we don't get to tell them they can't do that … they cannot say, 'you can't do that,' as it would inhibit their worship there."