Tuesday, August 17, 2010
N.M. Delegation Backs Right To Build Mosque
By Sean Olson
Journal Staff Writer
Members of New Mexico's all-Democratic U.S. congressional delegation said a mosque planned near ground zero in New York City isn't New Mexico's business, but they stressed that religious liberty is important even when inconvenient.
The three Republicans challenging incumbents for U.S. House seats in New Mexico say the mosque ought to be moved, although they agree there is no legal basis to force the mosque to relocate.
"Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he believes those who want to build a mosque at the site should be able to do so," Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said Monday. "As the mayor of New York, he is in a better position to make this kind of decision and I don't have a valid basis for objecting."
"We are a country that was founded on the principle of freedom of religion," said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. "It is enshrined in our Constitution, and I believe every American is entitled to that basic right. That said, this is a matter that should be left to the people and government of New York City to determine."
In contrast, Steve Pearce, a Republican who is seeking the state's 2nd Congressional District seat held by Rep. Harry Teague, said he was disappointed that President Barack Obama gave what Pearce called a tacit endorsement of the mosque's planned location near ground zero.
"While this issue is not a matter of law, it is a deeply personal issue to so many Americans, particularly those who lost someone on that terrible day," Pearce said. "The fact that they have a legal right to build something does not make it the right thing to do."
"It seems that some people want the Constitution to apply only when it's convenient, but we don't get to decide when we follow the Constitution on a case-by-case basis," he said Monday. "Personally, I wish they'd build it somewhere else in New York City, but that's not a decision we get to make from down here in New Mexico."
Other responses from candidates and New Mexico's delegation included:
• "In instances like these, I wouldn't want New Yorkers telling us what to do in New Mexico, so I'll trust the people of New York to review this issue and make the best decision for their community," said Democrat Rep. Ben Ray Luján, representing N.M.'s 3rd Congressional District.
• "I support the free exercise of religion," said Tom Mullins, Luján's Republican opponent. "I believe the Muslim community is free to move their proposed mosque to another location, away from ground zero. That would be the right course of action."
• "To build a mosque at ground zero — where 3,000 innocent lives were lost in the largest terrorist attack in U.S. history — is an insensitive affront to those who were killed on 9/11, hurtful to their families and our country," said Jon Barela, Republican candidate for N.M.'s 1st Congressional District.
• Rep. Martin Heinrich, who represents the 1st District, was unavailable for comment Monday.