Group sues to stop mosque near ground zero

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 5, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) — The debate over a planned Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero became a court fight Wednesday, as a conservative advocacy group sued to try to stop a project that has become a fulcrum for balancing religious freedom and the legacy of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson, filed suit Wednesday to challenge a city panel’s decision to let developers tear down a building to make way for the mosque two blocks from ground zero.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission moved too fast in making a decision, underappreciated the building’s historic value and “allowed the intended use of the building and political considerations to taint the deliberative process,” lawyer Brett Joshpe wrote in papers filed in a Manhattan state court.

The Washington, D.C.-based group represents a firefighter who responded to and survived the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center.

City attorneys are confident the landmarks group adhered to legal standards and procedures, Law Department spokeswoman Kate O’Brien Ahlers said. A spokesman for the planned Islamic center, Oz Sultan, declined to comment on the lawsuit but said organizers were continuing to work toward choosing an architect.