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Retired Justice Stevens Supports Mosque, Warns of ‘Stereotypical Conclusions’

Posted Nov 5, 2010 7:25 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Retired Justice John Paul Stevens on Thursday lent his support to Muslims who want to build a mosque two blocks from ground zero.

Speaking at a luncheon sponsored by the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, Stevens said it’s wrong to infer that all Muslims share the views of al-Qaida, according to stories by the Associated Press and CNN. Those debating the mosque “should beware of stereotypical conclusions about groups of people that we don't know very well,” he said.

Stevens said he understands the emotions of New Yorkers who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 attacks. A World War II veteran, he recalled a 1994 visit to Pearl Harbor where he saw Japanese tourists. His initial thought was, "These people don't really belong here” because they were celebrating the attack. Later, he realized he was making assumptions about the tourists that didn’t necessarily apply.

"We should never pass judgment on barrels and barrels of apples just because one of them may be rotten," he said. "Our Constitution protects every one of us from being found guilty of wrongdoing based on the conduct of our associates. Guilt by association is unfair.”

In a speech last month, Stevens defended his dissent in a Supreme Court decision finding First Amendment protection for flag burning. Stevens said burning a flag was just as dangerous and offensive as burning a Christian cross or desecrating a Koran.

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