Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, the third-ranking House Republican, thinks it is “not appropriate” to build an Islamic community center and mosque blocks from ground zero in Lower Manhattan, rounding out the GOP House leadership’s opposition to the project.
“It would not be appropriate to construct a center celebrating the history of Japan on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, and it is not appropriate to construct a mosque celebrating Islamic culture in the shadow of the twin towers,” Pence said in a statement to POLITICO.
Specifically, two in Republican leadership — House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia — have come out vocally against the construction of the Park51 project, which would convert an old retail store into a recreation and worship space about two blocks north of where the World Trade Center towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001.
On Friday, President Barack Obama weighed in with what appeared to be a strong endorsement of the project on First Amendment grounds, but he clarified his remarks a day later, suggesting that it might not be wise for the project to proceed.
Boehner called the decision to build the mosque close to ground zero and Obama’s support “deeply troubling.” Cantor dubbed it “the height of insensitivity.”
On the Democratic side, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) on Tuesday in San Francisco said she thinks everybody respects the “right of people in our country to express their religious beliefs on their property,” while calling for an investigation into the funding of those opposed to the project. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has been largely silent, while Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) signaled Monday that he believes in religious freedom and that it is up to New Yorkers to decide where the mosque should be built.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he is in favor of the project.