With Republicans trying to make a planned mosque near Ground Zero a wedge issue in contested races across the nation, Steve Pearce challenged U.S. Rep. Harry Teague on Monday to take a stand on the controversial topic. While the rhetoric is different, it turns out the two essentially agree on the issue.
Both acknowledge that those who want to build the Islamic center near Ground Zero have a right to do so, but Pearce said it should be built somewhere else, and Teague said he wishes they’d build it somewhere else.
“While this issue is not a matter of law, it is a deeply personal issue to so many Americans, particularly those who lost someone on that terrible day,” the Republican Pearce said in a news release. “The fact that they may have a legal right to build something does not make it the right thing to do.”
Teague, the Democrat in the race, agreed.
“It seems that some people want the Constitution to apply only when it’s convenient, but we don’t get to decide when we follow the Constitution on a case-by-case basis,” he said in a prepared statement. “I know that this is a very sensitive issue to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 and to the entire nation. Personally, I wish they’d build it somewhere else in New York City, but that’s not a decision we get to make from down here in New Mexico.”
Teague’s campaign had harsh words for Pearce.
“It isn’t a surprise to anyone that Congressman Pearce is just playing partisan politics as usual,” spokeswoman Jessica Borchert said. “But this campaign isn’t about what’s happening in New York City. It’s about issues being driven by the people of New Mexico’s Second Congressional District. Maybe if Congressman Pearce took the time to travel the district and talk to people he’d understand what some of those issues are.”
Want to know what the rest of the New Mexico delegation, and the other Republicans running for U.S. House seats, think about this issue? The Albuquerque Journal has that story.
Teague accuses Pearce of waffling on the First Amendment
Teague is in a tough re-election battle against Pearce, his predecessor in Congress who voluntarily gave up the seat in 2008 to run unsuccessfully for Senate. As I’ve written, some believe Teague has avoided taking definite stances on some issues, instead trying to have it both ways.
But Teague took a strong stance on Monday on the right of those who want to build a mosque near Ground Zero to do it. And his campaign hammered Pearce for what it said was waffling on the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
President Barack Obama has defended the legal right of Muslims to build a mosque near Ground Zero, but he has not said whether he believes the mosque should be built there. Still, some have interpreted his comments as an endorsement, and Pearce seized on that in his news release.
“It is disappointing that President Obama has endorsed building a mosque near Ground Zero,” Pearce said. “The American people do not support this position and we should not be so insensitive to memory of those who lost their lives on that tragic day.”
He called on Teague to “join me in calling on the president to reconsider his position and state clearly that this location is an ill-chosen one and does not honor the memory of those who died.”
Teague, in response, pointed to this statement from Pearce’s Web site:
“The Constitution is the single most important document in our civil lives… Politicians in Washington have gotten comfortable bending and twisting the Constitution to advance their political agendas. We need to return to the concepts and wisdom that our forefathers bestowed upon us more than 200 years ago. The Constitution is our guardian as it… protects our right to prayer and against the government halting expressions of faith.”
Borchert said Pearce is now showing his lack of independence.
“He defends the Constitution on his website,” she said, “but when the (National Republican Congressional Committee) says jump, Congressman Pearce abandons his position and asks, ‘How high?’ Even Politico is reporting that this is just more political strategy orchestrated by the national Republican Party in Washington – and, apparently, Congressman Pearce is more than happy to follow the leader.”