I debated Nicole Neroulias on the Ground Zero mega mosque earlier today on Fox and Friends. Nicole is on the faculty of the Columbia School of Journalism. She writes for The New York Times and for Religion News Service, a wire service that provides stories and photos about faith to USA Today, The Washington Post, BeliefNet and other media outlets.
It was, to use one of her phrases, a "hoot."
The New York Times reports that some New York City buses will soon display ads opposing the construction of Cordoba House/Park51 (see prior posts) near Ground Zero, showing a plane flying toward the flaming World Trade Center and the text "Why There?"
I'm glad I'm leaving New York before I spot one of these buses and scream. Frankly, I find the use of this image for political/advertising purposes far more insensitive and offensive than a city-approved Islamic cultural center -- or even a traditional mosque! -- going up a few blocks from Ground Zero. (Among all the other houses of worship, fast food joints, clothing stores, hotels, offices, apartments, cocktail lounges and even a strip club crammed into lower Manhattan.)
But, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his representatives explain in this and previous stories, just as any religion has the right to build in lower Manhattan, so does any group to use free speech -- as long as it doesn't fall under hate speech? -- to oppose said project.
John H. Banks III, a mayoral appointee to the authority's board, said he supported the decision, despite his personal objection to the advertisement. "The wonderful thing about our country is that people have a right to express themselves, as long as it doesn't endanger anyone's life," Mr. Banks said. "I support it, even though I disagree with it vehemently."
Hey, maybe one of these 9/11 images will pull up next to one of the buses with the "Leaving Islam?" ads on it. Wouldn't that be a hoot?