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Religious Left Calls Ground Zero Mosque Opponents Bigots

"This pro-mosque Religious Left coalition is more distressed over Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin than ascendant radical Islam." -- Mark Tooley, IRD President

Contact: Jeff Walton, Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, 202-413-5639 cell, jwalton@TheIRD.org

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 /Christian Newswire/ -- Led by the National Council of Churches (NCC), the Religious Left is backing the proposed Ground Zero Islamic center while denouncing the mosque's skeptics as "hateful."

The statement endorsed by 40 religious voices is comprised of top NCC officials, left-wing Catholics, Muslim groups, and mostly second-tier Jewish groups, plus J Street. Not listed are mainline Protestant clerics, Eastern Orthodox, and prominent liberal Jewish voices typically found on NCC-organized political statements. No prominent evangelicals are signatories.

"We are deeply troubled by the xenophobia and religious bigotry that has characterized some of the opposition to a proposed Islamic center and mosque near where the World Trade Center towers once stood," the letter reads.

IRD President Mark Tooley commented:

    "Groups like the NCC could have employed their own long history of interfaith cooperation to mediate a reasonable compromise and to persuade the imam and his supporters to heed sensitivities about 9-11. But instead the NCC is embracing the Ground Zero mosque full throttle, all sensitivities be cursed, and denouncing all who are less than zealous for the Islamic center as bigots.

    "Groups like the NCC almost never say anything directly critical of radical Islamists except when absolutely politically obliged. 'Extreme' Christians who warn against Islamist influence are typically more distressing to most of the Religious Left than most Islamists.

    "The pro-mosque letter targets Fox News for spewing forth a 'steady stream of irresponsible commentary and biased coverage that reduces what should be a civil debate into starkly combative terms.' Evidently, calling mosque skeptics bigots and xenophobes is not 'combative.'

    "Few critics of the proposed Islamic center near the World Trade Center site dispute the right of any religious group to construct a house of worship in America. What is disputed by Ground Zero mosque critics are the wisdom and sensitivity of building an Islamic center near where Islamist fanatics murdered over 2,000 New Yorkers. Whatever the professed intent of the mosque builders, radical Islamists likely will see the mosque's construction as a jihadist victory."