Herman Cain, a Republican presidential hopeful, on Sunday defended his opposition to the building of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, adding that U.S. communities should be able to prevent the construction of mosques in their neighborhoods, according to CNN.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," the former Godfather's Pizza CEO said that local resistance, including protests and legal challenges, to the planned mosque in Tennessee are an example of local residents taking a stand on what they believe, the Associated Press reported. He said that people knew what was best for their own communities, CNN said.
Cain, who said he sided with those opposing the mosque, said his view didn't qualify as religious discrimination because he says that Muslims are trying to introduce Sharia law into the U.S., according to the Associated Press.
"Our Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. Islam combines church and state," Cain said on "Fox News Sunday." "They are using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their mosque in that community and the people in the community do not like it, they disagree with it."
The 65-year-old businessman, who recently announced he was seeking the GOP nomination, has staked out tough conservative positions in hopes of being noticed in a crowded field of Republican candidates, AFP reported.
While discussing the Murfreesboro mosque, Cain said, according to Fox News:
"It's not just a mosque for religious purposes. This is what the people are objecting to," he said.
Asked whether any community should be able to prohibit a mosque, Cain said they should.
"They have the right to do that. That's not discriminating ... against that particular religion. That is an aspect of them building that mosque that doesn't get talked about," he said.
Cain again argued that residents were objecting to "the fact that Islam is both a religion and a set of laws, Shariah law. That's the difference between any one of our other traditional religions."
A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C., based group, denounced Cain's comments, calling them "unconstitutional and un-American," the Associated Press said:
"It's clear that Herman Cain has decided that he will score political points every time he bashes the Muslim community or its constitutional rights," council spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said in a phone interview.
On Thursday, when Cain was campaigning in Murfreesboro and was asked about the planned mosque there, he said, according to dnj.com:
"I think it is an infringement and abuse of our freedom of religion, and I don't agree with what's happening here because this isn't an innocent mosque."
He added, "This is another way to sneak Shariah law into our laws, and I absolutely object to that."
Cain has also been an executive with various other large corporations, including Coca-Cola, Pillsbury and Burger King, AFP said. He hosts "The Herman Cain Show" in Atlanta and is often present at the ultra-conservative tea party's events.
The executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Stephen Fotopulos, refuted Cain's comments, saying they "demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of the U.S. Constitution," according to AFP:
"And it's baffling that a man with designs on becoming the leader of this nation would so callously alienate over 3 million of its citizens," Fotopulos said.