Earlier in the day, New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to deny landmark status to protect the lot where the 11-story Islamic center is slated to rise, clearing an obstacle for its construction. Several Republican politicians -- from Sarah Palin to Newt Gingrich -- as well as the Anti-Defamation League have come out against the project. But Bloomberg praised the commission's decision, and in so doing detailed what he regarded as the city's checkered history of denying the freedom of religious expression to its residents.
"Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion?" Bloomberg asked. "That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another."
Here is the mayor's speech, delivered before a backdrop of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.
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