The statement issued by the
Center for Inquiry on Friday, August 27 concerning the Ground Zero controversy
was interpreted by some as calling for a prohibition on the placement of
mosques or other houses of worship near Ground Zero or otherwise speaking out
against freedom of religion. That was not the intent of the statement and we
regret any misunderstanding. A revised statement that clarifies the Center for
Inquiry’s position is set forth below.
The Center for Inquiry’s
Statement on the Ground Zero Controversy
CFI fully supports the free
exercise of religion; protecting the rights of believers and nonbelievers is
central to CFI’s mission. Accordingly, CFI endorses President Obama’s recent
statement reminding the country that Muslim Americans enjoy the same rights as
other Americans and should not be treated as second-class citizens. There
should be no legal impediment to the placement of an Islamic community center
near Ground Zero, just as there should be no legal impediment to the placement
of a church, temple, or synagogue near Ground Zero.
Further, CFI laments the effort by
some to turn the proposed Islamic center into a political issue. Government
officials and candidates for office should not intervene in disputes over the
alleged offensiveness of a place of worship. Such conduct violates the spirit,
if not the letter, of the Establishment Clause. Government officials should not
be deciding who is a “moderate” Muslim any more than they should be deciding
who is a “moderate” Christian or Jew.
A number of private individuals
have protested the proposed Islamic center. The tone and substance of these
protests covers a wide range. Some protesting the Islamic center have raised
legitimate questions, but to the extent the objections to the Islamic center
mistakenly equate all Muslims with Muslim extremists, CFI condemns them.
CFI maintains that an Islamic
center, including a mosque, near Ground Zero, in and of itself, is no different
than a church, temple, or synagogue. It is undeniable that the 9/11 terrorists
were inspired by their understanding of Islam, and that currently there are far
more Islamic terrorists in the world than terrorists of other faiths, but those
facts are not relevant to the location of the Islamic center, absent evidence
that terrorists are involved in this endeavor, and there is no such evidence.
CFI’s unequivocal support for the
legal right of Muslims to place a community center near Ground Zero does not
imply that CFI views the new center as an event to be celebrated. To the contrary, CFI is committed to the
position that reason and science, not faith, are needed to address and resolve
humanity’s problems. All religions share a fundamental flaw: they reflect a
mistaken understanding of reality. On balance, CFI does not consider houses of
worship to be beneficial to humanity, whether they are built at Ground Zero or
This statement supersedes any prior
statement issued by CFI regarding the Ground Zero controversy.