Religion NIMBYs

The Tennessean published a pretty good article from Bob Smietana over the weekend that dealt with a Muslim groups defeated mosque-permit application. The article discusses familiar themes of NIMBYism and is laced with Islamophobic sentiments from the most vocal opponents of the project:

Matt Bonner, who lives in Nashville but is a member of Brentwood United Methodist Church, helped organize resistance to the mosque.

"Not enough people understand the political doctrine of Islam," he said in an interview before the mosque project was withdrawn. "The fact is that the mosques are more than just a church. No one can predict what this one will be used for."

Read on and you'll see that the project was relatively small and the perceived impact slight. Smietana casts the defeat in a broader context of opposition to religious sites, generally, and those of minority religions specifically.

Though he takes a little while to get there, Smietana does give some support for the nutgraph about how such resistance to houses of worship is a growing problem. And he even mentions the federal law -- the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act -- that provides some recourse for religious organizations that feel they are being discriminated against for what a rep of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty calls the "holy trinity of religious land use lawsuits -- complaints about noises, traffic and congestion."

This is all spot on. I know because five years ago I wrote a similar story about two Inland Empire Hindu groups that saw their applications to build a temple denied:

"I believe your decision, if not against the U.S. Constitution, is against its spirit,' wrote resident Anne Pyle, a Catholic. "Your arguments are farfetched and seem racist if not down right prejudice.'

The experiences were similar to those of the Brentwood Muslim group, except for the perceived-terrorist element. But it begs the question, and it's one really not addressed in Smietana's article, of how often building permits are denied to churches or synagogues.

The suggestion is that it occurs, but for only some of the same reasons and likely less frequently.

The former, at least in this case, is certainly true -- not a lot of fearmongering that a new Episcopal church is going to be used as a recruitment center for latter-day Crusaders. But what about the latter?

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