For some time now I have been asking how the American Center for Law and Justice, which bills itself as a leading defender of religious freedom, can justify its actions in leading the opposition to the construction of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero.
Apparently, it is quite easy, as all they have to do is claim that the issue is not about religious freedom at all:
“People keep talking about this as if it’s an issue of religious freedom and it’s not,” [ACLJ attorney Brett] Joshpe said. “I think it’s a matter of human discretion. It’s a matter of speaking up publicly and saying ‘we don’t think this is appropriate, we don’t think this is the time or the place and we think you really ought to reconsider.’ Those are the guiding principles behind our position.”
Of course, the real reason is that the ACLJ is taking on this fight is because it doesn’t think Muslims have the same rights as Christians, which Joshpe basically admits:
After saying the building was “arguably one of the most significant properties in New York,” Joshpe said he would not be pursuing the case if a Christian church were being built on the same site.
“Would I be personally involved in this matter if this were a church? No,” he said. “And the reason why is because if it were a church it wouldn’t be offending and hurting the 9/11 victims’ families.”
This is a straight-up admission that this lawsuit is being filed out of anti-Muslim animus, couched in the defensive, self-implicating rhetoric of “reverse racism”–the ACLJ claims the group behind the project is receiving “special treatment” from the Landmark Commission because they’re Muslim. But in fact they’re receiving “special treatment” from the ACLJ, whose commitment to religious freedom and property rights depends on which faith you belong to.
Apparently the ACLJ thinks that they can maintain their reputation as defenders of religious freedom while simultaneously leading the fight to prevent this exercise of religious freedom by simply pretending that the issue is not about religious freedom at all.
This is, of course, the complete opposite of their normal strategy, which is to claim that every case they take on is, at its heart, about religious freedom:
American Center for Law and Justice is a d/b/a for Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, Inc., a tax-exempt, not-for-profit, religious corporation as defined under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, specifically dedicated to the ideal that religious freedom and freedom of speech are inalienable, God-given rights. The Center’s purpose is to educate, promulgate, conciliate, and where necessary, litigate, to ensure that those rights are protected under the law.