On Friday night, the President of the United States plunged into the long-simmering controversy surrounding a proposed Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan, mischaracterizing the underlying issues while avoiding a clear position on the project itself. In his carefully prepared remarks to a religious Muslim audience, Mr. Obama chastised opponents of the Mosque for disregarding time-honored principles of religious liberty, and interfering with freedom of worship for Muslims. The next day, he insisted that he never meant to express an opinion on the wisdom or suitability of the specific site for the new center, implying that he might even sympathize with calls for its relocation.
In the process of his unfolding explanations, the president seemed to be arguing with phantoms, or with straw men. None of the prominent critics of Cordoba House deny that Muslims deserve the same freedom as other religious groups to build houses of worship to serve their adherents.
But no faith community can use religious liberty as an excuse to build whatever they want wherever they want it. All major projects – whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or secular – must pass tests of suitability and, in some cases, change plans to accommodate community concerns…
…Actually, one of our most important national traditions involves the emphasis on personal responsibility and accountability. Any effort to ignore (or, even worse, to glorify) the connection between Islam and the crimes of September 11th is an insult – and an assault – on that proud American principle.