This point of view seems tremendously reasonable, and if Obama has done little else for the Constitution at least he was willing to speak out here.
The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. 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. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. 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.
For a moderate example of the tortured logic on the other side take Charles Krauthammer.
America is a free country where you can build whatever you want -- but not anywhere. That's why we have zoning laws. No liquor store near a school, no strip malls where they offend local sensibilities, and, if your house doesn't meet community architectural codes, you cannot build at all.
None of these things is a content based constraint upon the freedom of speech imposed by a state or federal government. It doesn't take much knowledge of the Constitution to be able think your way though this issue, and Krauthammer obviously gets caught up in his biases.
Simply put, the federal, state, and city governments cannot, will not, and should not act to prevent this community center from being constructed simply because it serves muslims. If you don't get this you don't get the first amendment.
At Ramadan Iftar dinner, Obama supports new mosque on private property near Ground Zero | Top of the Ticket | Los Angeles Times