Southern District Judge Stephen C. Robinson ruled that Greenburgh, NY, used alleged concerns about safety, fire, and traffic as mere pretexts to prevent or delay the construction of a Pentecostal church, a move he said violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA, 42 usc 2000cc). He said that the town's "purported concerns were unsupported, if not wholly fabricated."
This decision is both timely and important, says Banzhaf, because the First Amendment almost certainly prevents government officials from blocking the construction of a mosque near ground zero based upon its intended use as a place of worship - the very factor which seems to outrage so many who think it is inappropriate for Islamic worship to occur near where Islamic extremists killed so many people.
In such circumstances, suggests Banzhaf, those opposed to the construction of the mosque might try to fabricate environmental, safety, health, traffic, and other similar concerns, hoping to so significantly delay the project, and drain the coffers of its proponents, that it would have to be abandoned.
The new federal Greenburgh precedent suggests that such tactics would be unproductive, and might well backfire in terms of enormous financial penalties, and a federal injunction blocking any further delaying efforts.
Prof. Banzhaf takes no position on whether the mosque should be constructed at this location.
PROFESSOR JOHN F. BANZHAF III
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
FELLOW, World Technology Network
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