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GOP Fully Intends to Pit Americans Against Each Other Over the Cordoba House

This post first appeared on Washington Monthly. At a certain level, it's still hard to fathom why the Cordoba House is so controversial. A Burlington Coat Factory store closed down; a local religious leader wants to build a community center at the location. This isn't especially interesting. At least, it shouldn't be. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) argued today on Fox News that his party, without a policy agenda or substantive ideas about the future, intends to pit Americans against each other over this issue during the campaign season.
"This is not about freedom of religion," Cornyn said. "I do think it's unwise to build a mosque in the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as the result of a terrorist attack."
First, saying it's "not about freedom of religion" doesn't make it so. When the right organizes to prevent a Muslim American from converting a clothing store into a community center, solely because Muslims will pray there, it's quite obviously about freedom of religion. Second, Cornyn helps pinpoint the basis for conservative opposition: he believes it's "unwise" to "build a mosque in the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as the result of a terrorist attack." No wonder Republicans are so upset -- they have no idea what they're talking about. If someone proposed building a house of worship for a specific faith group "in the site where" 9/11 occurred, I'd oppose it, too. And while one would hope John Cornyn, never the sharpest crayon in the box, would understand the basics before going on television to talk about a divisive issue, now is as good a time as any to help him understand current events. Let's make this easy for him: no one is talking about building a mosque at Ground Zero. The proposal calls for converting an old Burlington Coat Factory into a community center, a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero. I'm sure the conservative senator will want to apologize for his mistake, so the public isn't left with the wrong idea. In fact, Cornyn, who'll no doubt be embarrassed by his confusion, should probably let his Republican allies know. Once the right understands that there's no plan to build a mosque at Ground Zero, the whole dispute should fade away. Right?
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