In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Freedom Of Churches And Mosques Protected In...Arizona

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Newscom

The law, considered the first of its kind, was backed by most of the Legislature's Republicans and opposed by most Democrats, who argued that it gives religious institutions preferential treatment over the concerns of cities or residents.

"We're seeing a lot of churches coming into areas that were not historically where churches wanted to be, like industrial areas and downtowns," said bill sponsor Rep. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler. "The basic goal was to see that churches were not discriminated against but treated similarly to other land users."

Yarbrough also told the paper that the purpose of the law is not to elevate religious groups, but instead to "just level the playing field" in terms of zoning laws. And, he added, this would apply equally to a Baptist church or a Muslim mosque.

Another supporter of the bill is Deborah Sheasby from the conservative Center for Arizona Policy. What does she think of such a law protecting the Cordoba House? "Whether or not (the mosque) should be there is a different question than whether or not the government should stop it," Sheasby said. "From a legal perspective and generally speaking, the government needs to be neutral towards religion."