But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. 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.
Like so much of the other stuff Obama says, this is an exercise in missing the point. The issue is not, legally, whether the Muslims can construct a mosque at Ground Zero -- that is, whether state action should prevent them from doing so as long as they operate in "accordance with local laws and ordinances." Of course not. That would be unconstitutional.
But there's a lot of stuff that's legal that still isn't right. And so, when it comes to the mosque, the real question is whether it should be built, at only this one particular site -- whether constructing it at Ground Zero is decent, and kind, and respectful of Americans' sensitivities.
Would President Obama speak out in support of a minister -- and one with suspect connections like the imam behind the Ground Zero mosque -- if a self-identified "moderate" Christian sought to erect a giant church at, say, a site where radicals claiming to be Christians had murdered 3000 abortion clinic doctors, so long as the construction was done in "accordance with local laws and ordinances"?