By SALLY GOLDENBERG, NY POST
With the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, an impassioned Mayor Bloomberg yesterday supported the development of a mosque near Ground Zero and chastised opponents for what he said was trampling on religious freedom.
“I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state — as important a test as we may see in our lifetimes — and it is critically important that we get it right,” the mayor said in remarks on Governors Island — chosen by the mayor as a symbol of religious freedom in America.
“To cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.”
The mayor spoke shortly after the Landmarks Preservation Commission yesterday morning paved the way for the construction of the mosque on Park Place — voting 9-0 vote not to grant landmark status to the 152-year-old building that is to be demolished for the project.
The planned building, called Park 51, is slated to house a community center in addition to the house of worship. The commission’s vote signifies the clearing of a major hurdle in the controversial plan.
Emotional at times, Bloomberg described Governors Island as “where the seeds of religious tolerance were first planted” as a home to the earliest settlers in New Amsterdam.
“We come to state as strongly as ever — this is the freest city in the world. That’s what makes New York special and different and strong. Our doors are open to everyone,” the mayor said.
“Of all our precious freedoms, the most important may be the freedom to worship as we wish and it is a freedom that even here, in a city that is rooted in Dutch tolerance, was hard won over many years.”
Standing with 10 clergy members of various faiths and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Bloomberg spoke of religious obstacles faced by Quakers, Jews and Catholics who fought to practice their faiths centuries ago.
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