President Obama tonight forcefully endorsed building a mosque near Ground Zero, saying the country's founding principles demand no less. "As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country," Obama said, weighing in for the first time on a controversy that has riven New York City and the nation.
"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," he said. "This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable." Obama spoke at an annual dinner in the White House State Dining Room celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The White House had not previously taken a stand on the mosque, which would be part of a $100 million Islamic center. (Read more President Obama stories.)