USA Today Endorses Mosque and Berates 'Reprehensible' Critics Who 'Foment Hatred'

Add USA Today to the list of mainstream media outlets denouncing opponents of the plan to build a mosque near Ground Zero. In a Monday editorial, "New York mosque fight stirs all the wrong passions," the "nation's newspaper" declared: "The argument over building a mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero is mostly a sorry exercise in political exploitation" and berated that it's "created a convenient rallying point for those who instead want to foment hatred." The Gannett-paper's bottom line, build it:

Perhaps those seeking to build the New York mosque will defuse the situation by seeking a less controversial site. But if they do not, the mosque, like the calm that has prevailed since Sept. 11, 2001, will stand as a marker of the USA's enduring commitment to religious freedom.

The USA Today editorial board, led by former Executive Editor Brian Gallagher, scolded Republicans for whipping up "a frenzy, giving lip service to religious freedom but offering no solution that wouldn't offend it. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has been setting new lows for dialogue on this issue, even accused Obama of 'pandering to radical Islam,' as if any President would do such a thing."

Gallagher and gang relied on self-interested parties for proof of the supposed nefarious motives of opponents:

The proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero created a convenient rallying point for those who instead want to foment hatred, according to national Islamic leaders and academics who study Islam.

Small groups, using books, blogs and all the powers of today's technology, have leapt at the chance to exploit the opposition to that mosque. "Ordinary Americans who don't have a lot of information (about Islam) are bombarded with this," says Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America. "It makes them anxious and uncertain." Responsible people "need to provide information and outreach."

Which is why it is reprehensible for people claiming national leadership to stir the pot...

Below the editorial, the August 16 newspaper carried nine "other views on mosque," including this one - written long before 9/11 - meant to undercut the legitimacy of critics:

"The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity."

-James Madison, fourth President, and the Founder most responsible for defining Americans' religious freedom, in 1821.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.