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Pelosi calls for transparency from both sides in mosque dispute

By Ron Kampeas, JTA

August 18, 2010 | 6:53 pm

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi agreed with an ADL call on a group planning a mosque near Ground Zero to reveal its funders, but said the mosque’s opponents should do the same.

The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives weighed in Wednesday on the controversy. She echoed statements from President Obama that freedom of religion is paramount, but that the decision about the planned mosque is a local matter.

“The freedom of religion is a Constitutional right,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Where a place of worship is located is a local decision.” New York authorities, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have supported the mosque and community center, planned for a run-down area within three blocks of the World Trade Center felled in the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks.

Polling shows most Americans oppose the planned mosque, which also will serve as as an interfaith center, and a vocal opposition group has garnered the support of much of the Republican leadership, who have made the mosque an issue in the November midterm elections.

The Anti-Defamation League earlier this month issued a statement upholding religious freedom and decrying mosque opponents who have made bigoted statements, but also calling on the center’s organizers to respect the sensibilities of Sept. 11 victims and build it elsewhere.

The ADL also called for the organization behind the planned mosque, the Cordoba Initiative, to release a list of donors,  apparently heeding reports that its leaders have in the past consorted with Islamic radicals.

Pelosi in her statement said she agreed with a statement from the Interfaith Alliance, a religious freedom group that includes a number of prominent rabbis on its board.

Pelosi quoted this sentence from the Interfaith Alliance statement: “We agree with the ADL that there is a need for transparency about who is funding the effort to build this Islamic center. At the same time, we should also ask who is funding the attacks against the construction of the center.”

The entire Alliance statement expressed disappointment in the ADL: “It is unfair to prejudge the impact this center can have on reconciliation before it is even built,” it said. “And we must remember that just because someone prays in a mosque, that does not make them any less of a citizen than you or me.” It was not clear from her statement whether Pelosi endorsed the entire Alliance statement.

Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, said he appreciated Pelosi’s support for transparency, but regretted the politicization of the issue.

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