WASHINGTON — The US Senate's top Democrat on Monday came out against plans to build a mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, moving away from President Barack Obama on the controversial election-year issue.
Locked in a tight race, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid became the highest profile Democrat to respond to Obama, who last week backed the right for the developers to build a mosque near Ground Zero as the site is often called. Since his comments Friday, the Democratic president and his aides have worked to explain the statement, which drew criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.
"The First Amendment protects freedom of religion," said Jim Manley, a Reid spokesman, referring to a section of the US Constitution. "Senator Reid respects that, but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else."
Critics have said the location of the mosque is insensitive because the terrorists who struck were Islamic extremists. The plans call for a $100 million Islamic center two blocks from where almost 3,000 people perished when hijacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.