In its ongoing mission to transform a historical Catholic church into a mosque, Muslims in Syracuse, N.Y. scored a victory this week. The city’s landmark preservation board refused to act in opposition to the group’s plan to remove six crosses from the Gothic house of worship.
Hundreds of locals signed a petition expressing their desire to see the Christian monument remain intact. Nevertheless, the city board voted in favor of the Islamic remodel, allowing the historic crosses to be toppled and a six-foot high fence to be erected around the perimeter.
The church, formerly known as Holy Trinity Catholic Church, was built about a century ago by German immigrants. The church closed four years ago, and its parishioners merged with a nearby congregation. Those opposed to the removal of the crosses, however, contend the act would amount to defacing the property.
A nonprofit group called the North Side Learning Center paid $150,000 for the property and, since taking ownership of the church and school, director Yusuf Soule has been a public advocate for turning it into a mosque.
In order to worship in the space, he contends, the crosses must be toppled. Leaving them up, he said, would violate the faith’s ban on worshiping idols.
Several residents addressed the board this week, expressing their desire to see the architecture preserved. Others spoke in favor of stripping the building of the crosses.
Before board members could even vote on the matter, Chairman Don Radke warned them that they were prohibited from interfering with a group’s religious freedom. In the end, the decision fell on the side of the Muslim group.
Whether preserving the historic structure – which is ostensibly the mission of the landmark preservation board – would truly violate its new owners’ religious freedom is a question many in the community continue to ask. One would assume that, upon purchasing the property, the group recognized there were six crosses prominently being displayed.
Nevertheless, it now appears they are set for destruction as the 100-year-old architecture receives a modern-day facelift.