James Underdown at CFI wrote on his blog about the “Mosque at ground zero” controversy. In a piece titled An Immodest Proposal for Ground Zero, he suggests building the Center for Inquiry-New York on the site of the World Trade Center instead of an Islamic Center.
“As secular humanists, we don’t have to worry about the political correctness or the Constitutionality of whether or not to build a church, mosque, synagogue, or temple at Ground Zero. All those buildings would all be near the bottom of our desired list of buildings to erect anywhere. I don’t have to think twice about whether I’m being fair to Muslims vs. Christians, because my answer is the same to a Southern Baptist Chapel as it is to a Scientology Center: Better something else.”
I agree that it would be better to build something else as long as it’s not any kind of religious building. As a t-shirt I recently saw read, “9/11 was a faith based initiative”. In that case, it was the faith of radical Islam. In another part of the world it could, and often is, a different faith that is carrying out acts of violence.
He ends by asking,
“Wouldn’t it feel right to occupy that space with an organization that promotes the idea that we can rise above the animosity that caused it to be available in the first place?”
Yes, it would. But I propose that this organization shouldn’t be an ideological organization either. CFI does wonderful, important work in trying to make sure that all people are afforded the same rights and privileges. Unfortunately, even though I don’t think it is true, CFI, and other organizations like it, are considered by many average Joes to be linked with atheism, and therefore is, in the minds of many, painted with the same ideological brush as all religions or political organizations. This is a matter of perception, not fact, but unfortunately in our society, perception always seems to win out over facts.
If any publicly accessible building is going to be built at ground zero, I say let it be one dedicated to the study and preservation of that which our society was founded upon and which still makes great; a library and museum for the study of the U.S. Constitution.
This single document, more than any other in history, literally changed the world. Before it, freedom was something accorded to those privileged by birth or wealth only. After it, freedom was considered to be a right for all human begins. Freedom of, and from, religion; freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, the right to partition the government for redress of grievances, none of these things had existed, in law, for everyone, before.
This document gives us secular humanists the tools we need to promote our causes and perform our missions and is a most fitting tribute and memorial to those who lost their lives at that site almost 9 years ago.
It is a much better symbol of freedom and human rights than even a CFI-New York building, and a damn sight better than any mosque, church, synagogue, or temple, and something that everyone in this country can share in equally.