August 14th, 2010
02:28 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama 'not commenting on wisdom' of controversial Islamic center

Panama City, Florida (CNN) - President Barack Obama told CNN Saturday that in defending the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near ground zero in a speech Friday night, he was "not commenting on the wisdom" of the project but trying to uphold the broader principle that the government should treat "everyone equal, regardless" of religion.

"In this country, we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion," Obama said after giving a speech on the Gulf Coast oil disaster in Panama City, Florida.

While speaking at a White House dinner celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Obama threw his support behind a controversial proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near New York's ground zero, saying Friday that "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country."

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UPDATED 5:45 p.m. ET: Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton released the following statement on the proposed Islamic center and mosque near New York's ground zero.

"Just to be clear, the President is not backing off in any way from the comments he made last night. It is not his role as President to pass judgment on every local project. But it is his responsibility to stand up for the Constitutional principle of religious freedom and equal treatment for all Americans.

What he said last night, and reaffirmed today, is that If a church, a synagogue or a Hindu temple can be built on a site, you simply cannot deny that right to those who want to build a Mosque.

The World Trade Center site is hallowed ground, where 3000 Americans-Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims were the victims of a cold-blooded massacre. We are still at war with the small band of terrorists who planned and executed that attack.

But that does not give government the right to deny law-abiding Americans of one faith the same rights you would accord anyone else."

Filed under: issues • President Obama
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. BMW

    One of the things that I respect about President Obama is that he does and says what he thinks is right, regardless of the potential political consequences.

    These days people are getting hysterical about the most ridiculous things. Thank goodness we have a President who can keep his cool under enormous pressure.

    August 14, 2010 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  2. Meka

    Thank you President Obama, AMERICA NEEDS MORE CITIZENS LIKE YOU!

    August 14, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. Discernment


    If you subscribe to the principles of what it means to be an American, than what the President say on this matter is correct.

    (1.) – What is next, are you going to tell Jews where they can build synagogues?
    (2.) – Are you going to tell Catholics where they can build cathedrals?
    (3.) – Are you going to tell small country churches in the bible-belt where they can build?

    August 14, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  4. Bessy

    They do have the right to build one there, BUT, out of respect for their fellow country men, they shouldn't build one there. What do you expect the president to say ? He represents all the people of this country.

    August 14, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  5. vic

    Mosque near ground zero sad news . we understand government can’t denied

    Cooking this story into politics is very sad news

    August 14, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  6. johnnyhouse

    If he thinks everyone should be treated equally why did he and his friends in Congress either put everyone, including Congress on the same health care and retirement plan ,complete with all the perks that go with the job.That would be treating everyone equally so that everyone, including Democrat voters, could understand what equal really means.

    August 14, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  7. Citizen

    Obama is correct in stating that the center should be allowed to be built. If people really wanted to show their support for the victims of 9/11, they would encourage their Congressmen to vote again on the 9/11 bill and give medical coverage to the first responders who became sick by trying to save others on 9/11.

    August 14, 2010 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  8. Bobbie in Maryland

    I absolutely,entirely,1000% agree with President Obama! While I understand the loss, grief, & sympathies of New Yorkers & others for the fallen of 9/11, the right of the freedom of religion is supreme in this country...for ALL.

    August 14, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  9. Laurie

    I am from a very small town in North Dakota (1200 people). I grew up with people who practiced the Muslim faith. They owned businesses in our town. Since children do not have the built in fears and prejudices of adults, when we attended elementary school with their children, we treated them the same, as they treated us. We were interested in their culture, food, and religious practices, but we did not condem their way of life any more than they condemed ours. It added to our small town experience in a very positive manner.
    These families gave back to our community, were a vital part of our community, and were upstanding, proud citizens of our town, our state, and this country. My point is that a certain population in every race and religion commit vile, horrendous, unspeakable acts. That does not speak for all. Any person who judges a group of people by the actions of some, is a peawit. My sister has a sign that says "hate is not a family value." In the name of the goodness of most people, let us stop the hate, stop the vendettas, and try to appreciate each other for our diversity.

    August 14, 2010 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  10. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Thank you Mr. President! Most sane Americans agree with you!

    August 14, 2010 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  11. Tom in Delaware

    A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.

    This is the greatest recruiting tool for the Tea party movement since the Porkulus Bill.

    80 days and counting...

    I can see November from my house

    August 14, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  12. Fed Up

    This man is so two-faced it isn't funny. Guess the uproar he caused was too much for his polls! Now he has to back-pedal and say he knows nothing about what he thinks. Great leader!

    August 14, 2010 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  13. doug

    There are over 100 Mosques in the NYC metro area.

    When reading the comments from Democrats remember what they would love to do to the Christians in America, hey conservatives may be against this Mosque but they don't want to round people up and lock them away for their religion like the average liberal Democrat.

    August 14, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |