WASHINGTON (JTA) — Nancy Pelosi agreed with an ADL call for transparency in the funding of the mosque and interfaith center near Ground Zero, but said its opponents should also make their funding transparent.
The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives weighed in Wednesday on the controversy, and 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 decrying bigoted opposition to the mosque, but also calling for the center’s organizers to respect the sensibilities of Sept. 11 victims and build it elsewhere.
The ADL also called for transparency in the funding of the mosque, apparently heeding reports that its organizers have in the past consorted with Islamic radicals.
Pelosi in her statement said she agreed with a statement on the ADL call from the Interfaith Alliance, a religious freedom group that includes a number of prominent rabbis on its board. 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."
Pelosi, however, singled out for agreement only one sentence in the 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."
Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, said he appreciated Pelosi’s support for transparency, but regretted the politicization of the issue.