Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The latest plan from the wingnuts and demagogues to try and stop the opening of an Islamic center a few blocks from Ground Zero — use eminent domain to seize the property. New York Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino came up with that one:

Paladino, a Buffalo lawyer and real estate developer, floated the plan last week in a Facebook post and a series of radio ads broadcast statewide. His message: If elected, Paladino would have the planned site of the mosque seized as part of a larger war memorial district in the neighborhood of Ground Zero.

His opponent in the GOP primary, Rick Lazio, has also jumped on the demagoguery bandwagon and pledged to stop the opening of the center. But Gov. Patterson’s legal team has concluded — quite rightly — that there’s no legal grounds for such a seizure:

Gov. David Paterson’s legal team has concluded that Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino’s idea of using eminent domain to block the construction of a Muslim community center and mosque two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks wouldn’t stand up in a court of law…

Paterson’s spokesman Morgan Hook said that Paladino’s own statement that he would use eminent domain to “block the mosque” would likely make it illegal for him to do so.

Paladino “is explicitly stating that he would use this power for the express purpose of preventing the construction of a specific religious institution,” Hook said in a statement. “That is an obvious violation of the First Amendment’s religion clauses, a gross violation of the spirit and intent of the eminent domain provision in state law, and may run afoul of other federal and state statutes and constitutional provisions.”

While the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 — which prevents governments from using zoning to block the construction of a house of worship — does not affect the use of eminent domain, Paterson’s legal advisers concluded that the courts would almost certainly reject any use of that power in which a case could be made that a specific house of worship was being targeted.

“The notion that the state government should seize property so as to bar the construction of a house of worship, or target members of a particular religious community, is frightening,” Hook said. “This action, if taken by a governor, would be a flagrant abuse of state law for purely political purposes, would saddle taxpayers with the bill for costly litigation and would almost certainly fail.”

Spot on. Not to mention the obvious hypocrisy of it all. Remember, conservatives are up in arms over the abuse of eminent domain laws — as they damn well should be (I wish more liberals were equally up in arms over it). But some of them are more than happy to use them for their own purposes.