“Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground...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.”
In the humble opinion of this writer, this is what President Obama should've said to the assembled Islamic leaders:
"Per our Constitution, 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.
As President, I cannot speak out against the proposed mosque. However as a citizen, I implore the planners to reconsider the location. The leaders of the Cordoba Institute have stated several times that their rationale to build this mosque at this location is to "build bridges" between Muslims and the rest of America. Protests by the families of 9/11 victims, New Yorkers and fellow Americans indicate that this project will have the opposite effect.
Freedom of religion is enshrined in our Constitution and must be protected. However, freedom of speech is likewise enshrined. While local, state and federal authorities will protect your right to worship, we will also protect the rights of others to speak out against what they deem to be a grave insult.
So I request again that the Cordoba Institute reconsider their choice of location. Regardless of their decision, I highly encourage complete transparency in the financing, building and operations of your place of worship. Already the trust of fellow citizens has been diminished and must be rebuilt.
I predict failure on both fronts will lead to alienation from fellow Americans. In the months after 9/11, the vast majority of Americans understood the tremendous differences between the terrorists who committed those heinous acts and other, peaceful Muslims. I fear those crucial differences, in the minds of many, will diminish, leading to widespread alienation that will be difficult to overcome."