Ground Zero mosque seeks $5 million in public funds

While you've been assaulted and/or exposed to radiation at the airport to thwart a terrorist attack on your flight by some members of an unknown religious, national or ethnic group, the developers of the Ground Zero mosque in lower Manhattan have been busy applying for $5 million in federal grant money for its construction.

And the purpose of this grant money? According to John Avlon of The Daily Beast   it was specifically

set aside for the redevelopment of lower Manhattan after the attacks of September 11


The application was submitted under a "community and cultural enhancement" grant program administered by the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corporation (LMDC), which oversaw the $20 billion in federal aid allocated in the wake of 9/11 and is currently doling out millions in remaining taxpayer funds for community development.

"But, but..." you might sputter if not totally stupefied by this announcement, "what about separation of religion and state?"

No problem.

A list of Frequently Asked Questions that accompanied the application specifically states that religious organizations can make funding requests for capital projects "as long as the request is for a facility or portion of a facility that is dedicated to non-religious activities or uses." According to an individual familiar with the Park51 application, it requests funds to cover a number of cultural, educational and community development aspects of the proposed 13-story building-but the prayer room is excluded from the grant application.

So the tax dollars will subsidize an educational, cultural and community facility where people can gather to learn about the need to destroy the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But there is more to the audacity of the application for tax money to build the Ground Zero Mosque.

Part of the strangeness of the application is that it blows past the suggested range of $100,000 to $1 million that these grants are supposed to fall to within (I'm told the entire pool for this round of cultural funding will come in under $20 million). According to the two sources knowledgeable about the thinking behind the proposal, the strategy behind the $5 million ballpark was trying to yield a higher figure in the end.

But the project likely doesn't qualify for a grant in the first place. Specifically, the grant criteria mandate a demonstration of a project's financial feasibility, based on benchmarks set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The government will help complete development projects-but it does not provide seed capital. And in their last public financial statement, Park51 was found to have less than $20,000 in the bank for a project with a slated cost of $100 million.

But don't protest this use of your tax dollars lest you be accused of Islamophobia.