There's continuing reaction, both positive and negative, over President Barack Obama's remark that Muslims have the right to build a mosque near New York's ground zero.
The president says he was asserting that Muslims have the same right to freedom of religion as everyone else in America. He didn't say whether he believes building the mosque is a good idea.
The White House quickly added the president wasn't backing off in any way from the remarks he'd made Friday at the White House.
Republicans have pounded Obama for his comments, making it a prime midterm election issue.
Deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton said it was "not politics" but Obama's feeling that he had the obligation as president to "make sure people are treated equally" under the Constitution.
Burton said Obama "felt it was his obligation as president to address this." Obama was on the way to Wisconsin for fundraising.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it would be a sad day for America if opponents successfully kill plans for a mosque proposed to be built near the World Trade Center site.
Bloomberg has been among the few outspoken elected officials supporting the plans for an Islamic center and mosque two blocks from ground zero.
Over the weekend, the president added that he was not commenting on the wisdom of building a mosque close to ground zero. Some have said it is insensitive because the terrorists who struck the buildings in 2001 were Islamic extremists.
Bloomberg applauded Obama on Monday for backing the mosque. He declined to read what he called "nuances" into the president's additional remarks on Saturday.
Others were quick to pounce. New York Congressman Peter King says the president is wrong, and that it would be "insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero."
Opinions among relatives of people who died on 9/11 are mixed.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
The GOP predicts the proposed mosque will become an election issue this year. Click here to read more about that part of the story.
How far from Ground Zero is enough? Read more about the debate.
Congressman Michael Arcuri is weighing in on the debate over building the mosque near ground zero. Read more about it here.