Good on Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
ThinkProgress's Alex Seitz-Wald has video of Hatch giving an interview to Salt Lake City's Fox 13 News, in which he offers up soft-spoken yet strong support for the Cordoba Initiative's Park51 project in Manhattan.
HATCH: Let's be honest about it, in the First Amendment, religious freedom, religious expression, that really express matters to the Constitution. So, if the Muslims own that property, that private property, and they want to build a mosque there, they should have the right to do so. The only question is are they being insensitive to those who suffered the loss of loved ones? We know there are Muslims killed on 9/11 too and we know it's a great religion. I know a lot of Muslim people who I have a very great regard for, not the least of which is Muhammad Ali. He's a great friend of mine. But as far as their right to build that mosque, they have that right.
The question is, should they? Is it insensitive not to, in the eyes of the majority of New Yorkers? It's going to come down to New York and what New York decides to do.
Hatch went on to add that as a legal scholar, "I have the tendency, when it comes to religious liberty issues, to always uphold the rights of legitimate churches... I just think that what's made this country great is we have religious freedom. That's not the only thing, but it's one of the most important things in the Constitution."
Hatch has something of a personal stake in the matter as well, and he recalls an instance in which the late Senator Ted Kennedy lent a hand to get a Mormon temple built in Massachusetts, despite some local obstruction.
Hatch also seems to have a proper grasp of geography:
There's a question of whether it's too close to the 9/11 area, but it's a few blocks away, it isn't right there. Frankly, there are a lot of people who feel, including the mayor of New York, that they should have every right to do it, and that New Yorkers should support them...And there's a huge, I think, lack of support throughout the country for Islam to build that mosque there, but that should not make a difference if they decide to do it. I'd be the first to stand up for their rights.
It's probably worth your time to revisit Alex Pareene's compendium of the "Heroes, villains, and cowards of the so-called 'ground zero mosque,'" if only to be baffled by the people who haven't the guts to join Senator Hatch in standing up for some basic freedoms.
Sen. Orrin Hatch: 'I'd Be The First To Stand Up For Their Rights' To Build A Mosque Near Ground Zero [ThinkProgress]
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