[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/17/art.boehner.gi.jpg caption =" House Minority Leader John Boehner is scheduled to headline a fundraiser for a New York Republican candidate who backed plans to construct an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site."]
Washington (CNN) - House Minority Leader John Boehner came out forcefully against President Obama's decision to back the construction of an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan, calling the endorsement "deeply troubling."
But Boehner is scheduled to headline a fundraiser in upstate New York on Friday for a Republican House candidate who recently took a position quite similar to Obama's.
The candidate, Chris Gibson, is challenging Democratic Rep. Scott Murphy in New York's 20th congressional district. On his Facebook page last Wednesday, Gibson responded to a voter who wanted to know his position on the controversial project.
A former Army officer and Iraq combat veteran, Gibson condemned Islamic extremism and expressed sympathy for the families of 9/11 victims. But he also said that "any attempt to single out Islam would be a violation of the Constitution." American Muslims "are friends and good citizens and we must honor their right to practice their religion," he said.
Emotions about 9/11 run high, Gibson wrote, "but in my view, as it relates to religious buildings in the vicinity of Ground Zero, it's either all or nothing – churches synagogues and mosques should be treated the same."
That post, forwarded to CNN by a Democrat following the race, has since been removed from Gibson's Facebook page. Dan Odescalchi, a spokesman for Gibson, said he wasn't sure why the post was removed but said there some "nasty things" written on the candidate's Facebook profile and several posts were removed by staff as a consequence.
Asked if Gibson still supports the right to construct the mosque, Odescalchi directed CNN to a newer Facebook post in which Gibson advocates for a 9/11 memorial "that celebrates all religions and mankind's hope for peace.
A spokesman for Boehner had no comment on Gibson's statement.
UPDATE: The original version of this post failed to mention that in his original Facebook post, Gibson also suggested a way to sidestep the controversy: re-zone the private property on which the proposed mosque will be built.
Gibson's full comment was as follows: "Given the emotions associated with this sacred ground, it may be best to zone this land either commercial or state park," he wrote. "But in my view, as it relates to religious buildings in the vicinity of Ground Zero, it's either all or nothing – churches synagogues and mosques should be treated the same."