Political Heavyweights Weigh In On Ground Zero Mosque Debate

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is the latest politician to weigh in on plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero, a debate that has polarized New Yorkers for several weeks.

Reid says the Muslim community center and mosque should not be built near the ground zero site. Jim Manley, a spokesperson for Reid, issued the following statement Monday, explaining the Senator's stance on the issue.

"The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that, but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else."

The Majority Leader's statement comes during his hotly contested battle for re-election in Nevada against Republican challenger Sharron Angle. Angle also opposes the mosque.

Reid's statement directly contradicts the view of the White House. President Obama recently gave his two cents on the issue, saying that religious freedom allows the mosque to be built, but fell short on commenting on the wisdom of building one two blocks from Ground Zero.

"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," Obama said in a statement Friday. "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 unshakable."

"The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure."

Republicans didn't waste anytime in lashing out at Obama's remarks, some saying they were irresponsible and insensitive. Texas Sen. John Cornyn said President Obama is "disconnected from mainstream America" and that voters this fall will "render their verdict." Cornyn leads the GOP's Senate campaign committee.

A White House spokesman responded to the attacks Monday, saying politics wasn't a factor in Obama's remarks. Deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton said it was "not politics" but Obama's feeling that he had the obligation as president to "make sure people are treated equally" under the Constitution.

Burton said Obama "felt it was his obligation as president to address this." Obama was on the way to Wisconsin for fundraising.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he has no plans on weighing in on the ongoing mosque debate. Christie however, accused both parties of politicizing the issue a news conference Monday.

Christie, a former federal prosecutor says the sensitivities of the families of the 9/11 victims should be taken into account. He also says America cannot condemn all of Islam because of the actions of terrorists.

Some have said the building is insensitive because the terrorists who struck the buildings in 2001 were Islamic extremists.


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