WATCH: Obama Defends Right To Build ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ At White House Dinner

In what’s sure to be a landmark moment in the Great Ground Zero Mosque Debate, President Barack Obama this evening defended the right to build the religious center two blocks from the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Obama delivered his remarks at a White House dinner held in celebration of Ramadan, and tried to strike a balance between the understandably still-raw emotions surrounding the attacks, and religious liberty:

“Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground. But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the [same] right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.”

The White House previously declined to get involved in the debate, saying it was best left to “local government.” Tonight marked Obama’s first comments on the issue, and though his stance doesn’t come as a shock, fierce debate from talking heads on all sides of the issue will no doubt follow.

Video of President Obama’s remarks below:

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