Yglesias strings together some wise thoughts here:
The other thing is that over the weekend some kind of hair-splitting distinction opened up between the idea of publicly and forcefully acknowledging the legal and constitutional right of the organizers to place their community center at 51 Park Place in Lower Manhattan and supporting construction of the mosque. I sort of see what the distinction is. People have the right, legally speaking, to go stand on the sidewalk outside my office and scream obscenities at me when I go to lunch. But I really wish they wouldn’t do that, and I think sensible people would condemn the decision to behave in that manner.
But when it comes to matters of religion, I think this distinction gets a bit confusing. I’m after all not a Muslim. And if pressed, I’d have to say that I think Islam is a false doctrine. It’s not the case that there’s is no God but Allah, nor is it true that Mohammed is his prophet. If everyone collectively decided that nobody should ever build a mosque anywhere again, that would be fine by me. Which is just to say that people simply don’t actively support the construction of other people’s religious monuments. Yu don’t expect Jews to stand up and applaud the construction of new Mormon temples, but I do expect them to acknowledge the right of Mormons to build temples and to stand up to demagogues who would try to abridge that right. And this is what we have going on in Lower Manhattan today. A completely legitimate undertaking that’s being stymied out of a mixture of geographical ignorance, a slanderous attribution of collective responsibility for 9/11 to all Muslims, and political opportunism. On the other side are people standing up for non-discrimination and religious freedom.