September 10, 2010 — In response to the continued controversy over the proposed Islamic community center in New York City, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) will begin displaying an ad promoting religious freedom on the back of buses throughout the New York City transit system beginning September 20.
“We hope these ads will remind people, as they are going about their daily lives, that freedom of religion is a core American value that needs to be fiercely defended, especially in times of controversy,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “Even in the wake of the horrendous events of 9/11, we must remember that discrimination only chips away at the very values we are striving to defend.”
The ad asks, “Would there even be a controversy if this weren’t a mosque?” and features three images of the proposed Park51 community center with a Latin cross, a Star of David, and an Islamic crescent and star, respectively. The ad boldly declares, “In America, religious freedom knows no boundaries.”
Last month, the ACLU and NYCLU joined more than 100 groups in forming New York Neighbors for American Values, a coalition devoted to the core American values of religious freedom, diversity, and equality that has supported the right of the community center to be built in its proposed location. The coalition will be holding a vigil tonight near Park51.
“New York is one of the world’s greatest cities precisely because of the richness, vibrancy and diversity of those who live here,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “We are proud of local officials like Mayor Bloomberg who have stood up for religious freedom and stared down misguided intolerance.”
In the months since controversy erupted over the proposed Park51 center, incidents of anti-Muslim and anti-mosque bias have spread across the country. A zoning board in Mayfield, Kentucky denied a permit to organizers of a proposed mosque after they were denied entry into a public hearing. An arsonist struck a construction site for a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. And teenagers fired a gun outside an upstate New York mosque and sideswiped a worshipper with their car.