Park51 Muslim Center May Get Public Financing

The controversial Muslim center near Ground Zero may get public financing.

Just when it looked like this infernal controversy was going to die down, a new wrinkle has given it new life:

The Muslim center planned near the site of the World Trade Center attack could qualify for tax-free financing, a spokesman for City Comptroller John Liu said on Friday, and Liu is willing to consider approving the public subsidy.

The Democratic comptroller’s spokesman, Scott Sieber, said Liu supported the project. The center has sparked an intense debate over U.S. religious freedoms and the sanctity of the Trade Center site, where nearly 3,000 perished in the September 11, 2001 attack. “If it turns out to be financially feasible and if they can demonstrate an ability to pay off the bonds and comply with the laws concerning tax-exempt financing, we’d certainly consider it,” Sieber told Reuters.

Spokesmen for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor David Paterson and the Islamic center and were not immediately available.

The proposed center, two blocks from the Trade Center site in lower Manhattan, has caused a split between people who lost relatives and friends in the attack, as well as conservative politicians, and those who support the project. Among those who support it are the mayor, civic and religious groups, and some families of victims.

The mosque’s backers hope to raise a total of $70 million in tax-exempt debt to build the center, according to the New York Times. Tax laws allow such funding for religiously affiliated non-profits if they can prove the facility will benefit the general public and their religious activities are funded separately.

While I can see it in the case of  major projects that ostensibly bring in big business to the city — sports stadia, civic centers, and the like –I don’t see how we justify public financing for religious facilities, even if the “religious portion” is funded separately.  Money being fungible and all that.

Still, if the city has routinely granted similar requests in the past, then there’s no reason they shouldn’t here.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Religion, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. jpe says:

    It strikes me as dicey, too, but courts have upheld tax exempt financing for church facilities in the past.  (the reasoning is the same as that finding that 501c3 status for churches is constitutional)

  2. Tlaloc says:

    I don’t like government funding of religion but ou know it was a Bush campaign promise (which he followed through on),  It’s amusing to watch the mouth breathers who were all for putting tax money into churches suddenly discover the wonders of a separation of church and state.  Also fun to watch their head explode.
    To clarify- I’m not speaking of Joyner here.  More people like Pam Gellar who suddenly find state support of religion to be “treason.”

  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Tlaloc, you twist the truth.  How many churches did Bush build?  There is quite a difference between utilizing faith based organizations to accomplish humanitaran missions and tax free funding for the building of a religious faciltiy 70% of the people paying for it disagree with.  I know that difference escapes you because you may be infected with liberalism.  I known mental illness which seems to effect the ability to reason.

  4. Juneau: says:

    @ Tlaloc
     
    I don’t like government funding of religion but ou know it was a Bush campaign promise (which he followed through on)


    No.  Again, no.. and yet one more time, no.   You are either uninformed or intentionally lying.  You Progs are simply astounding in your lack of integrity when it comes to stating twisted propaganda as facts.

  5. sam says:

    Juneau: says:
    Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 16:25

    @ Tlaloc

    I don’t like government funding of religion but you know it was a Bush campaign promise (which he followed through on)

    No. Again, no.. and yet one more time, no.
    =====================

    Well, there was the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives:

    Faith-based programs to help shape Bush legacy

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-01-13-bush-faith-based_N.htm

    WASHINGTON — To hear Jean Patterson Cushman tell it, President Bush’s faith-based initiative has been critical for her Baltimore organization that helps ex-prisoners find new jobs.

    Infused with $2.3 million in grant money from a Department of Labor initiative, Cushman’s group, Episcopal Community Services of Maryland, has moved from helping 50 men and women a year to 200.

    “I would say it’s made a fundamental change in what we could do,” said Cushman, who hosted Bush during a visit to her agency nearly a year ago. “We were a little program, sort of going along by ourselves. … It’s just opened up so many doors for us.”

    Love it or hate it — and many feel that strongly about the initiative — the program started by Bush days after he entered the Oval Office has been a major contributor to the debate over the proper intersection of God and government…

    As Bush prepares to yield the White House to President-elect Barack Obama, the faith-based office issued a final report Monday (Jan. 12) to its religious and secular partners, declaring it a success.

    “…(F)ederal partnerships with faith-based and other community organizations have greatly expanded,” the president wrote in “Innovations in Compassion.” “The initiative has also extended and strengthened the capabilities of these groups. Most importantly, together we have brought life-changing aid to millions in need.”

    According to White House tallies, nonprofit groups received $15.3 billion in competitive grants in fiscal year 2007, an increase of 3.9% over the previous year. That figure included $2.2 billion to faith-based nonprofits, which have received federal grants of more than $10.6 billion since the initiative got underway in 2002.

  6. sam says:

    @Zels

    There is quite a difference between utilizing faith based organizations to accomplish humanitaran missions and tax free funding for the building of a religious faciltiy

    But you know, funds are fungible.  If I run a faith-based org, connected with a particular church group, and the government gives the org $1 million, then that frees up $1 million of my group’s own money to, say build a church. Nothing sinister about this.  I don’t any problem with funding faith-based orgs, but one ought not to deny that the money given can free up other monies for purely nonsecular purposes,  nonhumanitarian purposes, e.g., building a church.

  7. tom p says:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

    Anytime gov’t and religion mix, all people of all faiths and non faiths, should get nervous. 

    >>>There is quite a difference between utilizing faith based organizations to accomplish humanitaran missions and tax free funding for the building of a religious faciltiy <<<

    ZR III: Yes there is a difference, but when you take somebody else’s money, they get to tell you what to do with that money, and various churches are now complaining about having to comply with gov’t anti- discrimination laws

    To which I say to them: Hey! If you don’t like it, don’t take the easy money! Get off your lazy asses and earn it. 

  8. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Yeah, churches are lazy.  And you are brilliant.  I guess you would not know this as you probably do not attend any religious services, the only god you worship is sitting in an ice cream shop in Martha’s Vinyard.  Churches exist on the largess of it members.  The work they do does not cost the public anything.  Some people are really low.  You are below that, Tom P.