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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave an impassioned speech on Tuesday defending the Cordoba House, an Islamic community center planned for lower Manhattan and sometimes called the "Ground Zero Mosque." The center has come under increasing attack from conservatives, including Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. But one-time Republican Bloomberg has drawn praise and applause from liberal observers for his speech, which placed the Cordoba House within New York and America's long histories of immigration and religious pluralism. Here are the reactions and, below that, speech highlights.

  • Showed America at Most 'Admirable'  The Atlantic's James Fallows declares, "I have to say that all Americans are New Yorkers today, in the wake of Mayor Bloomberg's brave and eloquent defense of American tolerance, and the resilient strength of America's diverse society, in welcoming the vote that cleared the way for construction of a mosque near the site of Ground Zero. ... Nothing is more admirable about this country in the rest of the world's eyes than the big-shouldered unflappable confidence demonstrated in that speech."
  • 'Stirring' Case For Center, Not Against Critics  Salon's Justin Elliott summarizes the "stirring" speech, "Rather than attack the bigotry of the opponents of the so-called 'ground zero mosque,' Bloomberg made several positive arguments for building the center. He traced the struggle for religious freedom in New York and affirmed the rights of citizens to do as they please with their private property."
  • Washington Post: 'He's Right'  The Washington Post editorial board simply states that, "Despite the demagoguery, support for the project was solid where it counted ... [Bloomberg] never wavered." They say of his speech, "He's right."
  • Credit For Politically Difficult Position  Gawker's Jim Newell writes, "Occasionally, New York City's King, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, takes stands that aren't the easiest, politically. ... let's give the man major credit for his rigorous defense. ... So today we give props to Michael Bloomberg, for sticking by his values on this one, and putting his famous stubborn streak to great use."
  • Libertarians Approve  Joining with liberals, Reason's libertarian Jacob Sullum writes, "Since I don't think I have ever had occasion to praise New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and may never again, I will seize the opportunity to say that he is taking exactly the right position in the controversy over the proposed mosque and community center near the site of the World Trade Center." Will Wilkinson agrees, calling Bloomberg "hero of the day."

Thank you @mikebloomberg. This is the face of the America everybody loves. The speech transcript: than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Mike Bloomberg is an American Hero. than a minute ago via web

Yesterdaytoday's outpouring of support for religious tolerance is a small but important victory against extremists and Al Qaedaless than a minute ago via web

Our doors are open to everyone. Everyone with a dream and a willingness to work hard and play by the rules. New York City was built by immigrants, and it's sustained by immigrants -- by people from more than 100 different countries speaking more than 200 different languages and professing every faith. And whether your parents were born here or you came here yesterday, you are a New Yorker.

... Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.

This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.

Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.

... Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure, and there is no neighborhood in this city that is off-limits to God's love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us can attest.

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