Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said:
President Barack Obama’s stance on the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” is the correct one. Many conservatives are simply wrong about this issue. Others are engaging in bigotry and hypocrisy.
It’s highly ironic to see Religious Right operatives like Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and others fulminating about an Islamic group’s plans to erect a facility in Manhattan. Even TV preacher Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice, which claims to support religious liberty for all groups, is trying to block construction of this building.
Gingrich said recently that the Islamic center must be stopped because Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow construction of Christian churches. How incredibly wrong-headed! Gingrich would have us descend to the level of tyranny rather than show Saudi Arabia a better way by lifting up religious liberty.
The Cordoba House is actually a community center more than a mosque. It will include a fitness center and meeting rooms open to all – and it’s two blocks away from Ground Zero.
More to the point is this simple fact: As long as they abide by applicable laws, religious groups are allowed to open facilities where they see fit. All must be treated equally by the government. That’s real religious liberty.
The irony is, a variety of denominations from across the political spectrum joined forces a few years ago to persuade Congress to pass a special law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, to make it easier for religious groups to build where they wanted. The Religious Right seems to believe Christian groups have every right to take advantage of that law, but Muslims don’t.
It doesn’t work that way. Government must never play favorites when it comes to religion. The state is required to be neutral, neither advocating nor inhibiting any faith.
Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:
I didn't realize that respecting the constitution could be so controversial.
Alan Abramowitz, professor of Political Science at Emory University, said:
It’s clearly the correct position — this is America and people have a right to practice their religion whether it’s popular or unpopular as long as they adhere to the relevant state and local laws. And it’s not going to have any impact on the upcoming elections.
Richard Lindzen, atmospheric physicist and professor at MIT, said:
The president's response is disturbing on several counts. First there is the fact that he shares the widespread tendency to confuse religious freedom with the freedom of religions to do anything. The latter is surely not guaranteed. Second, he ignores the significance of the name of the proposed Cordoba Center. Recall that an early Al Qaida broadcast following 9/11 began with the statement that we must never let the tragedy of Andaluz happen again. Every Muslim knew what this referred to, and the name of the proposed center reminds them again, and is an explicit acknowledgement of the meaning of this Center vis a vis 9/11. This meaning is hardly benign.
Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:
It's hard to know what the President's stance is. First he said "As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. 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."
Then he followed this up by stating that he wasn't commenting on the "wisdom" of constructing the Cordoba House community center two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
So which is it? Darned if I know.
This president is one of the most mealy-mouthed in modern times.
Frank Askin, professor of law at Rutgers University, said:
President Obama is certainly right that this is not an issue for political posturing or demagoging. So long as the applicants meet local zoning standards, etc. their religion cannot be a barrier to establishing such a center.
Hal Lewis, professor of Physics at U.C. Santa Barbara, said:
It's almost funny, because he is ambivalent (note the almost), and I am almost sorry for him (note the almost). Obama was raised as a Muslim (no one denies that), and all psychiatrists know that it's hard to shake the influence of your formative years. He switched to Christianity for reasons only he knows, but chose a virulently anti-American church (the infamous reverend Jeremiah Wright, whom he first supported, then dumped under the bus). To give him the benefit of the doubt, the fact that 9/11 was a Muslim attack on the United States may not yet have penetrated the wall produced by his early conditioning. The phenomenon is well known to psychologists, and is called cognitive dissonance---unwillingness to absorb facts that contradict deeply ingrained beliefs. I believe he has honestly tried to rise above his Muslim upbringing, but his heart is not in it, and he has not succeeded. That shows in everything he has said about the Muslim war on the United States, not just in this incident. To repeat, I am almost sorry for him (note the almost).