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Steve Hayes latest to cover up conservative attacks on Muslims' religious freedom

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On Fox News Sunday, Steve Hayes joined a long line of commentators whitewashing conservative attacks on Muslims' religious freedom by falsely claiming that "[n]obody's making the argument" that the organizers of the proposed Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan "don't have the constitutional right to do it." In fact, opponents have advocated using government intervention to restrict construction of the center or have asserted that the planners don't have a right to build it at the proposed location.

See Fox News Sunday video here.

Hayes latest to claim "[n]obody's making the argument" that Park51 doesn't have the "right" to be built

Hayes: "Nobody's making the argument that they don't have the constitutional right to do it." On the August 22 edition of Fox News Sunday, Weekly Standard columnist Steve Hayes falsely claimed of criticism of the Park51 project: "Nobody's making the argument that they don't have the constitutional right to do it. Nobody's making that argument."

Hayes joins long line of conservative pundits pushing that claim. Numerous conservative media figures have similarly claimed opponents of the project have not talked about restricting Muslim's religious freedom, such as Fox News' Glenn Beck, Charles Krauthammer, Bill O'Reilly, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, and ;Peter Johnson Jr., as well as National Review Online, blogger Pam Geller, and the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

But Park51 opponents have advocated for government intervention to stop construction of the center

NY gubernatorial candidate said he would appoint commission members who oppose plan to build the community center. As NRO's Josh Barro noted, "[C]onservative figures have continued to push creative ideas to throw red tape at the mosque." Barro highlighted New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio's pledge to appoint members to New York's Public Service Commission who oppose the community center and would block the sale of the property to the center's organizers.

Opponents wanted landmarks commission to prevent project from advancing. The New York Times reported on August 3 that "the project received its final city approval when the landmarks commission voted 9 to 0 to deny granting historic protection to the building in Lower Manhattan where the $100 million center would be constructed." The report noted:

Opponents, who have turned out in large numbers to speak out against the plan at public hearings this summer, seemed resigned to losing the vote, and few showed up to protest. After the commission voted, scattered members of the audience shouted "Shame on you!" and "Disgrace!" One woman carried a sign reading, "Don't Glorify Murders of 3,000; No 9/11 Victory Mosque."

The New York Observer reported that Lazio appeared at the hearing to "urge the commission to grant landmark status" to the building currently at the site and "he acknowledged that this discussion must take place in the context of the proposed mosque."

ACLJ filed lawsuit to block construction of center. After the New York City Landmarks Commission voted that the building at which organizers plan to construct the community center did not qualify for landmark status, Newsday reported that the conservative American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) "argued in papers filed in New York State Supreme Court that the commission's decision was invalid because it violated its own rules and procedures in part by failing to allow sufficient public input."

Wash. Examiner: "Can there be a higher civic purpose than preventing construction of a Muslim propaganda and recruiting center so close to the murder site of 3,000 Americans?" In an August 13 editorial, The Washington Examiner asked, "Can there be a higher civic purpose than preventing construction of a Muslim propaganda and recruiting center so close to the murder site of 3,000 Americans?" The Examiner further stated:

Local governments everywhere in America routinely regulate location and construction of religious facilities without impinging on the First Amendment right to worship. There are also volumes of federal, state and local historic preservation laws that could be invoked to force GZM to a different site. We hope Bloomberg accepts Newt Gingrich's invitation to debate this issue. Maybe then the mayor will explain why he disdains historic preservation of the area immediately around the site of the worst domestic attack in American history.

Wash. Examiner op-ed: "The federal government has at its disposal dozens of land preservation methods that could delay or even halt development of the Islamic center." In an August 11 Washington Examiner op-ed opposing the community center, Cheryl K. Chumley wrote that "[t]he federal government has at its disposal dozens of land preservation methods that could delay or even halt development of the Islamic center." From the op-ed:

Instead of decrying, condemning and reproving, politicians like Rep. Peter King, D-N.Y., who called the mosque project "particularly offensive," have opportunity to take action.

The federal government has at its disposal dozens of land preservation methods that could delay or even halt development of the Islamic center.

King, for instance, could introduce legislation extending the National Memorial designation currently affixed to the World Trade Center Site and in so doing, have a say in future development. Congress and the interior secretary could set the wheels in motion to preserve the property under the Historic Sites Act of 1935, a federal code that allows the National Park Service to "restore, reconstruct, rehabilitate, preserve and maintain" properties of historical significance.

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Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

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