President Barack Obama's remarks Friday evening
supporting the building of a mosque in Lower Manhattan several blocks from the World Trade Center site that was attacked on 9/11 drew immediate responses from both supporters of the plan and opponents.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, who has spoken in favor of the mosque, issued a statement on his website
Friday night saying: "Two hundred and 20 years ago this week, the Father of Our Country penned his famous letter to the Jewish Community of Newport Rhode Island or, as he called them, 'the Children of the Stock of Abraham.' President Obama's words tonight evoked President Washington's own August reminder that 'all possess alike liberty.' As I said last week, this proposed mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan is as important a test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime, and I applaud President Obama's clarion defense of the freedom of religion tonight."
James Standish, who represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the United Nations, called the issue a "hoax." In The Washington Post
, he wrote of the proposed mosque site: "It is separated by two full city blocks of towering buildings from the World Trade Center site. While the entire lower Manhattan might be considered "Ground Zero", the site of the mosque is separated visually and physically from the World Trade Center site. No one visiting the World Trade Center site will see it - unless they take a wrong turn on the way."
But Rick Lazio, a Republican candidate for governor and former congressman whose website has a petition urging Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to investigate the proposed mosque and the people associated with it, immediately criticized Obama and Cuomo, who is running for governor as a Democrat.
"President Obama and Attorney General Cuomo still are not listening to New Yorkers," Lazio said in a statement posted on his website
. "With over 100 mosques in New York City, this is not an issue of religion, but one of safety and security through transparency."
He added: "President Obama along with Andrew Cuomo's silence nearly brought the civilian trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to lower Manhattan. President Obama and Andrew Cuomo were wrong then, they are wrong now, and we made a promise to ourselves following 9/11 that we would 'Never Forget.' "
A spokeswoman for some of the families of 9/11 victims, Debra Burlingame, said, "Barack Obama has abandoned America at the place where America's heart was broken nine years ago, and where her true values were on display for all to see," according to The Associated Press.
Burlingame, the sister of one of the pilots killed in the attacks, called the mosque "a deliberately provocative act that will precipitate more bloodshed in the name of Allah."
Sally Regenhard, the mother of a firefighter who was killed on Sept. 11, said: "As an Obama supporter, I really feel that he's lost sight of the germane issue, which is not about freedom of religion. It's about a gross lack of sensitivity to the 9/11 families and to the people who were lost."
On Wednesday, before Obama made his remarks, a Time/CNN poll
indicated that 68 percent of Americans oppose the mosque plan, compared with 29 percent in favor. Three percent were undecided.
, the local cable news station in New York, found reactions in line with the Time/CNN poll, according to its website:
New Yorkers who spoke with NY1 had mixed opinions to the president's remarks.
"I don't think Obama should have any say influence over a New York state issue. I don't think it's a national issue, I think it's more of a state issue," said one New Yorker.
"It's a delicate issue. I think you have to be sensitive, but at the same time, I think you have to respect people's religious beliefs and rights -- and this is a free country. And all people of faiths passed in this tragedy here, not just Christians but Muslims also -- and we have to respect that," said another.
"Obviously we all believe in freedom of religion, but it's sacred ground for New Yorkers and Americans. It's a difficult topic. I don't know how wise it was for the president to interject," said a third.