This is not a request to sign a joint letter. We thought, as a community, we could raise our voices instead by pledging financial support for the Islamic Center, a center modeled on and supported by the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, and currently planned to be built several blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. For more info on the JCC’s involvement see Amanpour interview with Rabbi Levitt of the JCC and Daisy Khan, spouse of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf and for more info on the proposed Center, see here.
With many others, we have grown increasingly distressed at the intolerance and in some cases outright bigotry and hate-mongering that has been displayed in response to the plan to build an Islamic Center. And Anti-Muslim feeling and action is spreading. See, e.g., Incidents at Murfreesboro Islamic Center Spread Fear at Tennessee Mosques, NY Times, Aug. 31, 2010.
While the First Amendment is directed at government interference with speech, press and religion, it exists to guard against the danger that an angry and fearful majority will undermine those cherished rights. Thus even in the absence of government interference, it is incumbent upon us to stand with those seeking to exercise those rights in the face of heated public opposition. Unfortunately, with the notable exception of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, there have been few profiles in courage on this issue. And that too compels us to act. See Who Else Will Speak Up?, NY Times, Aug. 31, 2010.
We decided against a joint letter because we thought it might invite endless debate over the text and more important, because we feared it would get lost in the blaring voices now shouting all around us. What we have decided to do instead is to collect pledges of financial support for the Islamic Center, wherever its promoters wish to place it. We thought action here would speak louder than words.
When we collect a significant number of pledges, we plan to send the names of all who have pledged, without noting how much any individual pledged, but rather simply stating the total amount of all pledges received, along with your institutional affiliations to Park51, the Islamic Center, with this simple note:
As law professors, who spend our working lives trying to ensure that each succeeding generation can meet Benjamin Franklin's challenge-–“We have given you a republic, if you can keep it,”-–we have decided to put our money where our principles are.
You continue to be asked, where your funding is coming from. We would be proud to have you say that part of it comes from us, a group of academics from across this nation dedicated to the spirit of freedom embodied in the First Amendment, to a nation in which all are equally free to worship how and where they see fit.
We hope that our gesture, however small in absolute terms, encourages other Americans who cherish our Constitutional principles to follow our lead.
Thus, each of the following professors of law has pledged to donate an amount to the Park 51 Islamic Center project, which in total is X. Institutional affiliations are given for purposes of identification only and so you may contact the individuals listed to fulfill their pledges.
[List of names to follow]
Our aim is just enough text to explain our pledges and no more.
We suggest pledges between $18 and $360. That is a tribute to the Jewish tradition of giving in multiples of 18, the number corresponding to the Hebrew word “life.” But any amount you would like to pledge would be greatly appreciated.
Please join us in this effort by emailing Susan P. Koniak (Boston University) with your name, amount of pledge, which will not be distributed to others, and the school at which you teach.
We will, of course, circulate the final list of names (no dollar amounts provided) and periodic updates on the number of pledges received to anyone pledging money as this effort progresses.
Finally, please feel free to forward this email to others whom we may not have reached. We are sending out these emails in rolling waves, but we cannot hope to reach everyone and a certain amount of arbitrariness will undoubtedly be present in our efforts, so feel free to email whomever you’d like about this effort.
Thank you in advance for your support and patience,
Susan P. Koniak (Boston University)
George M. Cohen (Virginia)
David A. Dana (Northwestern)