Richard A. Serrano
Los Angeles Times
October 19, 2010

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For the second time in two months, the Obama administration has interjected itself into a dispute over a proposed Islamic center, warning local officials that opposing the mosque could violate the civil rights of its members and become a federal crime.

The Justice Department filed court papers Monday in support of construction of a Murfreesboro, Tenn., mosque, saying local Muslims were protected by the 1st Amendment right to free exercise of religion and disputing opponents’ claims that Islam is not a valid religion.

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In August, President Obama drew fire from conservatives and many New Yorkers when he said people had the right to build a mosque on private property. The statement so inflamed his detractors that the next day the president emphasized he was not necessarily endorsing the proposed Islamic center two blocks from the former World Trade Center in New York.

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