At a White House dinner celebrating the start of Ramadan last night, President Obama came out forcefully in favor of the Ground Zero Mosque:
Let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.
While this stance pleased Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said, “President Obama’s words tonight evoked President Washington’s own August reminder that ‘all possess alike liberty.’ As I said last week, this proposed mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan is as important a test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime, and I applaud President Obama’s clarion defense of the freedom of religion tonight,” New York Republicans came out forcefully on the other side.
Said Long Island Congressman Peter King:” It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero. While the Muslim community has the right to build the mosque they are abusing that right by needlessly offending so many people who have suffered so much.”
And Dan Senor, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and one time opponent of Kirsten Gillibrand told MSNBC, “He sets up a straw man, as if the debate were solely about religious freedom…One can respect religious freedom and private property, both of which are protected by the Constitution, and still oppose the plans of the Cordoba Initiative on the grounds they will move New York backward, not forward.”
Carl Paladino said that the entire World Trade Center site should be declared a “War Memorial” and off-limits to developer’s whims (question: since the Cordoba House in a couple of blocks away, how far must this district extend?): “The Ground Zero Mosque is not about freedom of religion, as President Obama claims. It’s about the murderous ideology behind the attacks on our country and the fanatics our troops are fighting every day in the Middle East.”
And Rick Lazio tied Obama’s speech to Andrew Cuomo: “President Obama and Attorney General Cuomo still are not listening to New Yorkers. With over 100 mosques in New York City, this is not an issue of religion, but one of safety and security through transparency…President Obama along with Andrew Cuomo’s silence nearly brought the civilian trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to lower Manhattan. President Obama and Andrew Cuomo were wrong then, they are wrong now, and we made a promise to ourselves following 9/11 that we would ‘Never Forget.’”