The New York City Bar issued a strongly worded statement Wednesday defending the right of Muslims to build an Islamic center and mosque, two blocks from ground zero, saying “our nation is the stronger, both internally and in its standing in the world, for preserving religious freedom.”

The statement issued by City Bar President Samuel W. Seymour placed the association in the midst of a political debate stirred by President Barack Obama’s defense last week of Muslims’ right to build the mosque as reflecting religious freedoms that are “essential to who we are.”

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