“As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country, and 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. ” -President Barack Obama, at the White House Iftar (feast ending a day of fasting during the Muslim month of Ramadan), August 13, 2010
“There wasn’t a lot of debate because he made it clear that he WAS going to take it on.” – White House official to Politico.com
We have a president that believes that it doesn’t matter what the polls say when it’s a matter of the fundamental principles of our founding documents.
President Obama’s remarks Friday, about the mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan, may have stirred up a hornets nest and left the Republicans “licking their chops,” as one House Democrat’s chief of staff told Politico, Saturday.
“It’s just another day off message,” another Democrat’s aide told the political website’s reporters.
Since when is a matter of Constitutional principle “off message” for an American president? There can be nothing more on message, nothing more necessary for him to say and important for the entire world to hear, than we are equally tolerant of all faiths.
Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton, following the president’s remarks, stated there was no way the president was going to let this one go by. “[I]t is his responsibility to stand up for the Constitutional principle of religious freedom and equal treatment for all Americans,” he said.
The president himself again clarified his remarks when he ran into the press while on a family vacation in Panama City, Florida, Saturday night. “I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding,” he said. “That’s what our country is about. And I think it’s very important … that we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about.”
Even Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who refused to let his state be divided by the political extremism that is so prevalent in our country, and gave up being a Republican so he could run as an Independent for his state’s US Senate race, chose to agree with the president’s stand. “I think he’s right,” Crist told reporters Saturday, “I mean, we’re a country that in my view stands for freedom of religion and respect for others.”
And there is the main issue – respect for others. With so many of our fellow citizens turning vehemence, disrespect and anger into something that even the press lets go as the new standard for political discourse, we must remember that this country – our country – was founded on principles of tolerance, respect, and civility. Let’s not lose that.