- Of course they ought to build the mosque (not really a mosque at all, but a "cultural center"): anyone who says different is ignorant, angry, prejudiced, or some combination of these, or something else bad.
- Of course they ought not build the mosque: it is insensitive to the families of the victims for them even to suggest such a thing, which, incidentally, poses a security risk.
First of all, it would have been impossible to use government power of any kind at any level in order to stop the construction of the mosque, simply because it would be a mosque: impossible, that is, for a people who - with a straight face - profess commitment to the kind of religious liberty guaranteed in our Constitution.
So, they can build the mosque.
Well, I certainly do think the proposal is insensitive - although I do not think it is meant as a deliberate insult to the memory of the fallen, and one of the most frustrating recurrences throughout this whole debate has been the careless use of the accusation of "insensitivity" as though mere insensitivity were the equivalent of deliberate insult.
At this point, the most telling element of the whole discussion comes into view: we used to be of sterner stuff, and the 1st amendment supposes that we are.
That amendment is given (like the rest of our Constitution) for a society of persons who are capable of political freedom because they are capable of self government and rational public deliberation of all matters intersting the common weal, including religion.
The first amendment is not given (pace Jefferson) as a wall of separation between Church and State (nor do I think the Danbury Baptists agreed with him, either); rather, it is given in order to secure the place of religion, including vigorous religious debate, in the public square -and the debate over the placement of the proposed mosque is at once literal and physical proof of this.
Does Islam have a problem with violence?
The answer to that question is in lower Manhattan.
Is Islam compatible with Western civilization?
Frankly, I am doubtful: but America is the place for the question to be raised - and calmly, reasonably, frankly and respectfully debated.
Can Muslims be good Americans?
Let them come to lower Manhattan and prove it: America owes Muslims neither more nor less than it owed Catholics.