There’s been a lot of talk about libertarianism in Canadian politics lately. Of course the word has different meanings to different people. In New York City today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered what I believe was a historic speech in defence of the right of Muslim residents of Lower Manhattan to build a mosque and community centre there. The mayor’s argument was a libertarian one. I’ll quote the heart of it, but readers are encouraged to follow the link to the speech’s complete text.
“This morning, the City’s Landmark Preservation Commission unanimously voted not to extend landmark status to the building on Park Place where the mosque and community center are planned. The decision was based solely on the fact that there was little architectural significance to the building. But with or without landmark designation, there is nothing in the law that would prevent the owners from opening a mosque within the existing building. The simple fact is this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship.
“The government has no right whatsoever to deny that right – and if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question – should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another.”