By Ned Barnett, The American Independ23ent
The NC Council of Churches on Thursday strongly endorsed the right of Muslims to build a community center near the site of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York City.
“We stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters in affirming their right to build on a site two-and-a-half blocks from Ground Zero,” the council said in statement unanimously adopted by its governing board at its meeting this week in Greensboro.
The statement comes as controversy flares around a TV ad being aired by North Carolina Republican congressional candidate Renee Ellmers.
The ad, running on cable channels through the 2nd Congressional District, calls the community center a “victory mosque” and suggests it is an act of triumphalism by Muslims near the site of the terror attacks.
The council’s statement did not respond directly to the ad, but it condemned the “zealotry” that has driven some opponents to oppose the building.
“As followers of the God whose messengers announced his Son’s imminent arrival with the words ‘be not afraid,’ we explicitly reject public policy based on fear and the divisive zealotry to which it leads, and we urge all people of faith to do the same,” the statement said.
A spokesman for Ellmers’ Democatic opponent, U.S. Rep Bob Etheridge, said in statement Tuesday, “Bob Etheridge has never thought building this mosque and community center so close to Ground Zero is a good idea.”
The Associated Press reported that in the North Carolina U.S. Senate race, opinions varied. Republican Sen. Richard Burr called the project “incredibly insensitive. Libertarian candidate Michael Beitler does not object to the project’s location. Democratic challenger Elaine Marshall declined to take a position on the topic.
On Thursday, Marshall said in a statement:
“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who died in 9/11. The current dispute, regardless of which side you’re on, does nothing to honor the victims and their families and everything to further divide our country. Ultimately, the decision should be made by the people of New York, not Senate candidates in North Carolina.”
The North Carolina Council of Churches represents 6,200 congregations in 17 denominations statewide. The complete statement follows:
Statement on the New York Muslim Community Center Controversy
NC Council of Churches
September 21, 2010
The North Carolina Council of Churches represents 6,200 congregations in 17 denominations statewide. The North Carolina Council of Churches condemns all religious violence. As people of Christian faith, we value a teaching common to the Abrahamic faiths, which in the Christian tradition is expressed as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As Christians in a nation largely founded by religious refugees, we value the freedom of religion guaranteed by our Constitution and proudly proclaimed worldwide as a foundational principle of United States government and society. For freedom of religion to have substance and integrity, it must extend to people of all faiths.
In that spirit, we are saddened and deeply concerned by the recent controversy regarding the proposed Muslim community center near Ground Zero in New York, and we stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters in affirming their right to build on a site two-and-a-half blocks from Ground Zero. While acknowledging the deep and lasting pain and suffering that the September 11 attacks caused, we stress that Islam, an Abrahamic faith with 1.5 billion adherents worldwide, is not the violent extremism represented by Al Qaeda terrorists. There are many Muslim leaders who have spoken out against the violence of Al Qaeda and who have entered into warm and respectful interfaith dialogue with Jews and Christians. In the struggle against religiously justified violence, these are the kinds of alliances we need to nurture.
As followers of the God whose messengers announced his Son’s imminent arrival with the words “be not afraid,” we explicitly reject public policy based on fear and the divisive zealotry to which it leads, and we urge all people of faith to do the same.