Obama Clarifies Mosque Remarks

President Obama has expanded upon the comments he made last night about the construction of an Islamic cultural center and mosque near the site of the September 11th attacks:

Speaking to reporters today, President Obama drew a sharp line under his comments last night, insisting that his defense of the right to build a mosque does not mean he supports the project.

“I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding,” he said.

Obama’s new stance is logically consistent with his words last night, if a bit less “clarion,” as Mike Bloomberg called the first remarks. And there are certainly two possible stances here: Bloomberg’s, that the Cordoba project itself represents the best of America; and Obama’s, that the freedom of religion is an important American value.

Obama’s new remarks, literally speaking, re-open the question of which side he’s on. Most of the mosque’s foes recognize the legal right to build, and have asked the builders to reconsider.

It is a perfectly reasonable position to take, I think, especially for the President of the United States. It would be inappropriate for him to come out and say that he was opposed to construction of the mosque even though, as he said last night, our nation’s laws and tradition of religious tolerance argue that it should be permitted to go forward.

At the same time, though, it’s likely that Obama has stepped into a political minefield here and, while he may be right and well-intentioned, I’m not sure that he has the political skills to find his way out. But, that is a topic for another post.

FILED UNDER: Religion, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. James says:

    Woow can it be, this blog is net neutral 🙂 I know it’s  numbers that make fuzzy math 🙂

  2. RightKlik says:

    We really didn’t need Obama to tell us that we have freedom of religion in this country.  If that was truly the only thing he meant to communicate last night, his message was entirely superfluous. We have First Amendment rights whether or not Obama chooses to acknowledge or “believe in” them.
    There’s no courage or sophistication to an argument that hides behind our well-established and cherished First Amendment rights. I know of no one who wants to infringe upon the Bill of Rights in their opposition to the GZ mosque.
    Platitudes about unshakable commitment to religious freedom are of no help at a time like this.  Does anyone seriously believe that religious freedom will have been abrogated when the fight over the GZ mosque is finally settled?
    The conflict over the GZ mosque isn’t a fight about religious freedom. The conflict over the GZ mosque is a fight about abuses of that freedom.  It’s a conflict over a group that claims that it want to foster forgiveness and reconciliation, but has chosen to do so in an irresponsible way that alienates 70% of the country.
    Obama could have chosen to point out how stupidly the Cordoba House supporters are acting.  Instead, he chose to lecture America about the importance of our First Amendment rights.  If that’s really what Obama thinks this is all about, then I say Obama has all the sophistication and leadership skill of a 3rd grader.

  3. Gosh, another blogger with good sense on this issue. The blogging and media lefties are doing the same thing they did during the Democratic primaries — hearing what they want to hear. Obma clearly discussed the issue as a matter of legal rights, not public policy. I am astonished that people missed it.

  4. An Interested Party says:

    “We really didn’t need Obama to tell us that we have freedom of religion in this country.”

    Apparently we do, if your comments are any indication…by the way, if you are so interested in the truth, perhaps you might refer to this project using more honest words, rather than calling it the “GZ mosque”…

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    “Clarify” (in your title) is a fascinating word to use in describing President Obama’s re-working of his position since far from clarifying anything it attempts to take credit for taking a stand without actually taking a stand. As far as I’m concerned there were three coherent possible positions the president might have taken.

    He might have kept his mouth shut since it’s not a federal issue. Not precisely a profile in courage but it would have had the advantage of being comprehensible. He’s foreclosed that alternative by commenting.

    He might have come out in support of the project. It would have injured some New Yorkers and heartened others. It probably would have played well with his base. Tolerance is good.

    He might have come out in support of the right of the project planners to go forward with their project while condemning the project itself. IMO that would have split the baby perfectly.

    Now he’s trying to take credit for being above the fray while he kibbutzes from the sidelines. I said it before: like many of our presidents he wants to be the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral, and the baby at every christening.