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In a political climate where reliable conservatives like Lisa Murkowski and Robert Bennett are vulnerable to a challenge from the right, it hardly seems prudent for a Republican politician to offer unequivocal support for the proposed Park51 Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan. Yet that's exactly what Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch did yesterday in an interview with Fox 13 of Salt Lake City. Hatch, a Mormon, likened the controversy to the uproar that surrounded the construction of the Boston Massachusetts LDS (Mormon) Temple in 2000. Said Hatch (who is next up for reelection in 2012):


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 the people who have suffered the loss of loved ones? We know there are Muslims killed on 9/11 too and we know it’s a great religion...But as far as their right to build that mosque, they have that right.
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I just think 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.
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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. … 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.

(H/T Think Progress)


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