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UPDATED: Slay backs mosque project proposed near Ground Zero in New York City

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay appears to be the first prominent Missouri politician -- Democrat or Republican -- to weigh in on the national debate over the proposed construction of a new Islamic center and mosque in New York.  

The proposed site is just a few blocks away from Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center towers stood before they were destroyed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 people (in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.).

The mayor is siding with President Barack Obama's initial statement in favor of the right of Muslims to build a mosque.

Said Slay in a Tweet this week: "President Obama is right about the mosque and the fundamental nature of religious freedom."

Slay has yet to expand on his comment, but is expected to do so soon on his blog -- where he often offers his opinions on various matters.

Obama's first comment, on Friday, was that those who wanted to build the Islamic center should be allowed to do so. On Saturday, he was said he wasn't speculating on the "wisdom'' of such a project, and emphasized that local zoning and building mandates needed to be followed.

The only other area Democrat to have issued a public statement on the matter was across the Mississippi River, in Illinois. U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, said he opposed the project.

"I certainly believe in religious freedom, but this project is simply too controversial and divisive to achieve its stated goal of rebuilding community and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims," Costello said.


On Wednesday, Slay -- as predicted -- expanded his views in a post on his blog.  Slay said he sided with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also supports the mosque.

The matter of the mosque could become an issue in Missouri's U.S. Senate contest. The campaign of the GOP nominee, UJ.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, said Wednesday that he opposes the mosque. Blunt's camp then condemned the Democratic nominee, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who said in Kansas City that she wasn't getting involved in a non-Missouri issue.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.