One debate that occurred on Lower Manhattan streets Saturday


On the ninth anniversary of 9/11, Teresa Pinder came all the way from the Poconos in Pennsylvania, to protest the proposed Islamic cultural center.

The Most Reverend Bennett D.D. Burke, a bishop of the Liberal Catholic Diocese of Arizona, attended a conference in New York City last weekend, where his church’s headquarters are located. On Saturday, he decided to visit Ground Zero to pay his respects. The two ran into each just off the corner of Church Street and Park Place–a few steps away from the old Burlington Coat Factory, the proposed site of Park51–around 1:30 Saturday afternoon. Downtown Express reporter Aline Reynolds captured part of their discussion.

Pinder: Where is the Imam’s money coming from?

Burke: Lots of sources.

Pinder: Can you name some of them?

Burke: No, I can’t.

Pinder: Okay, so that’s another issue.

Burke: So let me ask you about an issue. Why would you assume that an Imam who was sent around the world by a Republican administration to promote reconciliation is someone we should be assigning blame to for the 9/11 attacks?

Pinder: I disapprove of my tax dollars supporting sending him around the world for any reason whatsoever.

Burke: But why are you opposed to Muslims building a community center that has nothing to do with 9/11?

Pinder: It has everything to do with 9/11. It’s two blocks away. Families of victims are offended by it. Why can’t it just be moved?

Burke: All families?

Pinder: If it’s offensive, like burning the Koran is offensive, all right, why can’t it just be moved?

Burke: Because burning a Koran is an act of hatred. Building a community center is not an act of hatred.

Pinder: Okay, that’s in your view, but a lot of Americans feel it’s a symbol, a victory of killing 3,000 Americans.

Burke: But why would that be a symbol of victory, when the people building the mosque are not affiliated with the terrorists?

Pinder: We don’t know that, how do you know that?

Burke: Why do you assume they are?

Pinder: You can’t even tell me… why do you assume they’re not? If you can’t tell me where their funding is coming from, why do you assume they’re not?

Burke: Because I won’t assign blame to individuals unless I have proof that they’re responsible.

Pinder: That’s why we’re in such poor shape, because you’d rather assume after the fact.

Burke: Because the opposite is called bigotry. When you assume things you have no evidence for, that’s called bigotry.

Pinder: Well, there’s evidence that we were attacked and 3,000 Americans were killed.

Burke: Right, by 19 terrorists.

Pinder: And that’s enough for me to say, let’s investigate further any moves we make, especially building a mosque.

Burke: By all means, let’s investigate.

Pinder: [If the funds were vetted,] I’d still be offended they’d want to build it right here. Donald Trump offered to buy the building for 25 percent more than what the current investor paid for it. Paterson was going to donate land to them, to build it somewhere else, and the developers refused. And basically the Imam came on television and threatened that Americans worldwide would be in grave danger if the mosque was not built here. So why is it that we have to be tolerant of everybody else, but they can’t tolerate our feelings?

Burke: Because we’re Americans, and we’re tolerant in America, and we don’t want to use the model of intolerance…

Pinder: Supposedly they’re supposed to be Americans, too. That’s why we’re letting them build there. So why are they not tolerant? If they’re American too, all right, then they should be tolerant as well.