The contentious debate over New York’s Landmark Preservation Commission decision to permit a 13-story, $100 million Islamic community center – known as the Cordoba House – to be built just two blocks from Ground Zero has morphed into a national debate about the freedom of religion.
On one side, the politically correct crowd now favors the freedom of religion, while roundly condemning all who oppose the mosque as “intolerant, “bigots” and “Islamophobes.”
On the other, there are faith leaders, conservative pundits – and most New Yorkers – who say opposition stems not from a position of intolerance, but from a concern for those directly impacted by the 9/11 attacks – not to mention the questionable motivations of the cleric behind the push to build a center.
Even President Obama stepped into the maelstrom this week during a State Dinner celebrating Ramadan:
“Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities -– particularly New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of Lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.
“But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. (Applause.) And 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 that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., an ardent proponent of the president’s agenda, was quick to move away from Obama’s statement, and said on Monday that the mosque “should be built somewhere else.”
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, said even though the vast majority of Muslims condemn the 9/11 attacks, building a mosque near Ground Zero is “unacceptable.”
“As a Baptist who believes in religious freedom and separation of church and state, I strongly support religious communities’ right to have places of worship within reasonable distance of where they live,” Land said. “However, no religious community has an absolute right to have a place of worship wherever they choose, regardless of the community’s objections.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read President Obama’s remarks at the Iftar Dinner at the White House.
Read Charles Krauthammer’s Aug. 13 Op-Ed in The Washington Post, “Sacrilege at Ground Zero.”
Read, William McGurn’s Aug. 10 Op Ed in The Wall Street Journal, “Are Americans Bigots?”