Under the Dome

3 Senate hopefuls, 3 views on Islamic center

August 25, 2010 

The three candidates for U.S. Senate have weighed in on the controversy about whether an Islamic community center should be built two blocks from ground zero in New York.

The Islamic community center, which has been incorrectly referred to as a mosque, would include space for prayer services, along with a swimming pool, basketball court, meeting rooms and an auditorium.

Here's what the candidates said:

Michael Beitler, a Libertarian from Greensboro, says the issue has been hijacked for political expediency. "The Constitution protects the religious rights of all religions and the right not to believe," Beitler says on his website.

"The Constitution also protects the rights of organizations and individuals to own and administer legally owned property. The laws regarding the regulation and enforcement of zoning, something I often don't agree with, have permitted the use of this building by the organization wanting to build a center there. Everything else is irrelevant."

Republican Sen. Richard Burr said he opposes building the religious center there. "I do not support the building of a mosque at ground zero," Burr, of Winston-Salem, said in a statement.

"While the proponents of the mosque clearly have a right to worship as they see fit, having the right to do something doesn't always mean you should do it.

"This is a very emotionally sensitive location, and the proponents of the mosque should take into consideration the feelings of their neighbors including the families of the victims of 9/11."

Democratic Senate candidate Elaine Marshall said the question was a New York issue.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who died in 9/11," Marshall said in a statement.

"The current dispute, regardless of which side you're on, does nothing to honor the victims and their families and everything to further divide our country."

"Ultimately," Marshall added, "the decision will be made by the people of New York, not Senate candidates in North Carolina."

Burr, Boxer and military families

Burr and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California have announced the creation of a bipartisan Senate Military Family Caucus to focus on issues facing the families of active and veteran servicemen and women.

"There is a lot we can do for these families to ease their burden," Burr said in a statement. "The Senate Military Family caucus signifies that we, as a group of senators, recognize a need to support military families and provide an avenue to push for legislation that will benefit these families."

Burr and Boxer will lead the caucus, which includes 20 senators. North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan is among them.

The caucus will look at child care, education, employment, health care and the effects of multiple deployments on the mental health and well-being of spouses, caregivers and children.

Burr is the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Committee.

Price's National Guard moment

Democratic congressman David Price will have one of those "I can bring home the bacon" moments this morning, when he leads a media tour of the new headquarters for the N.C. National Guard in West Raleigh.

Price, one of the so-called cardinals of the House Appropriations Committee, was instrumental in securing money for the $56-million, 237,000-square-foot facility that will also serve as the state's new Emergency Operations Center for natural and manmade disasters.

The facility, paid for largely with federal stimulus money, is under construction.

Price is chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee, making him a cardinal of the appropriations committee.

rob.christensen@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

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