If only this were today's news headlines, a gigantic wave of change would already be propagating itself throughout the world, giving new hope to hundreds of millions of the world's gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gender people. But it isn't the news. Like the President's stand for religious freedom in America today, in his defense of Muslims ' right to build an Islamic center in New York City near Ground Zero, the LGBT community of the United States hopes that his next courageous stand will be to demand our full equality. ~Madison Reed
By Erica Werner
President Barack Obama on Friday forcefully endorsed allowing a mosque near ground zero, saying the country's founding principles demanded no less.
"As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country," Obama said, weighing in for the first time on a controversy that has riven New York City and the nation.
"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," he said. "This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable."
Obama made the comments at an annual dinner in the White House State Dining Room celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The White House had not previously taken a stand on the mosque, which would be part of a $100 million Islamic center two blocks from where nearly 3,000 people perished when hijacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Press secretary Robert Gibbs had insisted it was a local matter.
It was already much more than that, sparking debate around the country as top Republicans including Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich announced their opposition. So did the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group.
Obama elevated it to a presidential issue Friday without equivocation.
While insisting that the place where the twin towers once stood was indeed "hallowed ground," Obama said that the proper way to honor it was to apply American values.
"Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect towards those who are different from us — and that way of life, that quintessentially American creed, stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today," he said.
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