Mosque Mania Erupts in Southern California

Once again, a mundane zoning discussion turns into a referendum on race and religion.

By Jorge Rivas Dec 02, 2010

A small southern California city is having its own Park51 moment over a new mosque that city planning officials unanimously approved Thursday morning. The controversy started this summer as the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley moved ahead with plans to build a 25,000-square-foot mosque on a plot of land the group owns. The proposal stirred hostility with some residents because of fears the mosque would attract Islamic extremists.

Temecula is about 60 miles north of San Diego, and many residents have connections to nearby Camp Pendleton, the West Coast base for the U.S. Marines.

The LA Times reported earlier this year that a lot of the protests and letters to city officials are being organized by a political group affiliated with the tea party movement. Many of them made it out to Wednesday’s five and half hour planning commission meeting in which more than 80 speakers testified for and against the mosque.

"I’ve got holes in my tongue from biting it from some of the things I heard," Commissioner John Telesion told The Press Enterprise. "Ignorance of the facts breeds fear, fear breeds hatred and I hope that’s an anomaly."

What’s puzzling about the mosque controversy in Temecula is that the conservative city has no shortage of churches. In fact, the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley has been in the city for 12 years and currently serves 150 families in town. All that’s changed is the organized uproar from tea partiers.

"The project has met all the conditions placed before them and in fact has exceeded them," commissioner Ron Guerriero told The Press Times. "When people come here and blast (Temecula’s planning) and preach the prejudice we hear tonight, it’s bad for our community. It’s certainly not good for our children."

Check out the "Good Day LA" report on it above.