The third-ranking Democrat in the House said Monday that the decision of whether to allow an Islamic center to be built close to the site of the 9/11 attacks "ought to be left up to the community."
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) praised President Obama for standing up for religious freedom after the president, on Friday, said that religious freedom "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."
"When it comes to prayer and how any structure, any sanctuary, should be built, we have what we call in this country community standards, and community standards ought to be left up to the community," Clyburn told reporters at the Capitol following a press conference to tout Democratic accomplishments. He said he interpreted the president's comments as a defense of religious freedom "in a micro-sense," rather than a broad endorsement of the placement of the mosque.
Republicans have sought to turn Obama's words against Democrats on the campaign trail, pressuring incumbents and candidates alike to say whether or not they support the Ground Zero mosque.
Clyburn defended the president's decision to weigh in on the dispute. "I think as president of the United States, articulating the constitutional principles on which this country was founded and calling for tolerance on the part of all his people is a presidential act," he said.