NY gov's offer of state land for new mosque site raises constitutional issues

“This is absolutely the worst way to resolve the controversy,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “Not only are you putting pressure on those who choose to build a mosque two blocks from ground zero, but now you’re telling them or suggesting giving them some kind of a sweetheart deal, a free or cheap piece of land to build it elsewhere? It would violate the Constitution.”

A leading authority on church-state legal issues, Harvard law professor Noah Feldman, said he had no doubt that directing state land to the mosque would prompt a major legal battle.

“There would certainly be, by no means a guaranteed-to-win case, but a plausible case brought by the ACLU and Americans United … challenging the constitutionality of it,” Feldman said. “It’s obviously unlawful for states to lend or lease land to a religious organization — it could only do so on a par with other organizations.”