Re “Bloomberg’s Fierce Defense of Muslim Center Has Deep Roots” (front page, Aug. 13):

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg may have lost some popular support but has gained historic stature with his principled and eloquent defense of the right to construct a Muslim community center a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center.

As a legal matter, there is nothing to debate. If a church or synagogue could be constructed on the site, so may a mosque. Period. The First Amendment means at least that.

As a matter of public policy, the answer is the same. While some political leaders — Newt Gingrich, Rick Lazio and Rudolph W. Giuliani, to name three — may find it convenient to politicize the issue, there is a moral issue that should not be overlooked.

Muslim organizations that refuse to condemn the attack on 9/11 or that seek to minimize or “explain” it deserve the harshest public criticism. But here, there has been no basis for such criticism. Unless we are to treat all Muslims as being somehow complicit in the attack, a guilt-by-association proposition contrary to every principle of fairness, any bar to the construction proceeding would be reprehensible.

Floyd Abrams
New York, Aug. 13, 2010

The writer, a First Amendment lawyer, has represented The New York Times.