Paul L. Caron

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tax Profs for the Ground Zero Mosque

Park 51 Logo Tax Prof George Yin (Virginia) asked that I post this letter:

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)

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Useful idiots.

Posted by: Smoke | Sep 23, 2010 8:02:57 PM

Woody: What do you need from this group in order to be able to approach this conversation in a slightly more accepting, inviting, and welcoming way?

Please don't say that you need the law professors to agree with everything you want or that *you* think is right, because they could turn around and say the same to you. And then there will be no conversation but only anger and violence.

You are already deeply angered by this situation. I hear you. But the people who flew those planes into the twin towers were furious, too--so furious, in fact, that they were willing to give up their lives in order to do something about it. They thought we were all wrong and evil just like you think they (and now the law professors) are all wrong and evil. It's no good to say that the terrorists were all crackpots while you or "America" are the rational actors. For America has also made things worse through its international policy--unless you are prepared to argue that America's record has so far been 100% flawless. Many of your own arguments, moreover, are also deeply flawed--so much so that nobody has even bothered to address them on this thread.

So can we try a different approach? Can we speak from our hearts? Can we try not to throw accusations around or make generalizations about what is "muslim" culture and what is to be "American"? I fear that if we are all unwilling to do this, we'll never work through our conflicts in a way that truly lives up to the American ideas of liberty, equality, and democracy. It will just become a war of "us" against "them." And, in that case, quite frankly, the rest of the civilized world is likely going to choose the side of the law professors: They are generally very well connected in private industry and government, highly influential, and extremely knowledgeable. So I would have thought that finding some way to deepen the dialogue--rather than give the professors an excuse to attack you in the way you have attacked them--would be in your strategic interest, too.

Posted by: exasperated | Sep 14, 2010 1:14:17 PM

"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."

We know for an absolute fact that Muslims took down the Twin Towers. On the Murfreesboro fire, there are no suspects and there is no proof of arson.

Yet, liberal professors and the NYT are quick to accuse and to condemn American society for something still under investigation, while supporting with money a violent religion that refuses to reject and condemn attacks against innocent Americans. What fools.

Posted by: Woody | Sep 7, 2010 1:02:56 PM

The profs who donate to the Ground Zero mosque see themselves as noble examples in bridge building and believe that the Muslims behind the project are appreciative. The truth is that those Muslims are laughing at you.

Posted by: Woody | Sep 7, 2010 12:51:07 PM

What absolute fools. Muslims build mosques at the sites of their conquests. It is called "Cordoba House" because the first victory of Muslims in Europe was in Cordoba, Spain. Also, see the related article on the "mosque" for 450 to 500 people in apartment 10E, 201 W. 85th, NYC.

Posted by: TexEcon | Sep 5, 2010 6:03:33 PM

I think this is a noble thought and very appropriate that it be posted on TaxProf.

Posted by: mike livingston | Sep 5, 2010 5:40:49 PM

Some Jews (not me) are so self-hating and accommodating to those that hate and would kill them whenever given the chance. (The mayor of NY is the penultimate example of this). That's is why it was easy for the Germans to send them to "summer camp" on the trains. Islam is ten times worse for Jews, and everyone else in the US. One would think professors above everyone else would study enough history to come to that understanding, instead of preaching feel-good liberal left weak-minded drivel.

I too am actually for the building of the $100 million plus NY "mosque." It should be fairly easy once built for it to be seized and forfeited because of the source of the funding, false statements, and non-religious operation. It is beyond question anti-American hate speech, protected here, but not in Muslim countries, will be on the menu daily. Political anti-American hate speech in a black church or Muslim mosque is actually cause to deny tax-exempt status, but heaven forbid we would actually enforce Federal criminal laws against our enemies, other than of course war criminals and pirates.

As for citing the Constitution, liberal college professors are hardly familiar with any part other than their cherished First Amendment. They now want to use it to help our darkest and deepest and most evil enemy of all time. This dispute has no Constitutional dimension. The more the Muslims want to build there, the more proof they supply that they have a sinister motive.

Posted by: Steven M Harris | Sep 4, 2010 5:27:18 AM

Those who stated their support for Ground Zero mosque gifts indirectly answered the questions in my first comment above. How you can be proud of those answers is beyond the understanding of people who love this country and oppose this particular mosque site. And, frankly, your position and your donations offend many good and innocent people here.

You better hope that none of your gifts are laundered to be used for the continued Muslim encouragement of hatred and killing of Americans, unless, of course, you agree with that.

Posted by: Woody | Sep 3, 2010 10:13:12 PM

I wholeheartedly agree with the thinking behind this initiative and have pledged some money.

Jeff VanderWolk
Tax law prof at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

Posted by: Jefferson VanderWolk | Sep 3, 2010 6:58:04 PM

What a wonderful initiative and my deepest gratitude to all involved.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Sep 3, 2010 2:42:06 PM

"The Cordoba House, an Islamic cultural center, also happens to include a space for prayer commonly known as a mosque. It is but one of several programs of the Cordoba Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving and cultivating 'multi-cultural and multi-faith understanding across minds and borders.'" - huffpo 8-27-10

So, some questions: Will the center welcome gays? Will the swimming pool and basketball court be integrated? Will the cafe serve pork? Will Christians and Jews be welcome to pray in the "space for prayer"? Will people of other faiths, or no faith, be welcome to speak in the auditorium? Just guessing, but I'll bet all you profs that the answers are no.

Posted by: MochaLite | Sep 3, 2010 2:21:21 PM

Why wasn't this group of law professors so noble, publicly proactive, and giving to the families of the 9-11 Islamic terrorist victims? Did they start a campaign and collection for them?

Do these professors agree with the comment of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the Ground Zero mosque, that U.S. policies were an "accessory" to what happened on 9/11? What about that? Is America always to blame and to blame first in their eyes?

Do they not care about the feelings today of all 9-11 families and all of America that was attacked by Islamic terrorists at that site?

Do they choose to ignore the message of Islam to America with the mosque build at this location, which many see as a victory monument over America?

Do they really think that the Muslim determination to build on this site represents a good faith effort to heal wounds and differences?

Perhaps the truth is that these professors want to be "good liberals" and would rather smugly look the other way than be considerate of the 71% of Americans against this mosque site and whom they consider stupid and bigoted and beneath them? Maybe a little more understanding rather than reactionary causes would go much further.

The psychology behind the Ground Zero mosque

...most Americans do not buy the 19-fanatics story, but view the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti-American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with anti-Americanism.

The Ground Zero Mosque is being equated with that ideology, not with the faith or religious practices it aims to house. Public objection to the mosque thus represents a vote of no confidence in mainstream American Muslim leadership which, on the one hand, refuses to acknowledge the alarming dimension that anti-Americanism has taken in their community and, paradoxically, blames America for creating it.

...Treating home-grown terror acts as isolated incidents of psychological disturbances while denying their ideological roots has given American Muslim leaders the illusion that they can achieve unreserved public acceptance without engaging in serious introspection and responsibility sharing for allowing victimhood, anger and entitlement to spawn such acts. Opponents fear the construction of the Ground-Zero Mosque would further prolong this illusion and thus impede, rather than promote healing and reconciliation.

Frankly, if I was in that law professor group, I would learn a little more, reconsider, and change sides.

Posted by: Woody | Sep 3, 2010 10:54:33 AM