A judge in Tennessee ruled Tuesday that the public wasn’t properly notified about a meeting where local officials approved the plan for a proposed mosque, meaning construction of the disputed project will be stopped.
The new facility for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was one of several Muslim projects in the U.S. that hit a swell of conservative opposition around the same time as the controversy over a plan to build a Muslim community center near New York’s ground zero.
Chancellor Robert Corlew noted that his ruling doesn’t stop the Rutherford County Planning Commission from reconsidering the issue and again approving the site plan in the booming city of about 100,000 people southeast of Nashville.
Saleh Sbenaty, a spokesman for leaders of the mosque, said the ruling was disappointing but his group remains committed to building the Islamic center. They have been worshipping for many years at a smaller site in the community.
The opponents of the mosque have fought for two years to stop construction. During lengthy hearings in 2010, they presented testimony that in effect put Islam on trial. A string of witnesses questioned whether Islam is a legitimate religion and promoted a theory that American Muslims want to replace the Constitution with extremist Islamic law and the mosque was a part of that plot.
The judge dismissed those allegations but held a trial on the narrower claim that the public meeting law was violated because meeting notice wasn’t adequate. The meeting notice was published in the Murfreesboro Post, a free weekly newspaper that claims distribution to 45,000 homes in the county of more than 250,000 people.
See “Judge rules nearly finished Tennessee mosque doesn’t have permit”, Reuters, 29 May 2012
Reuters quotes Joe Brandon, attorney for the group opposing the Islamic Center, as saying that if the nearly completed construction did not stop immediately his group would seek a court injunction. Brandon added: “This was a huge victory. This is the first time in the United States that the political entity of Islam has been stopped in its tracks.”
See also “CAIR seeks DOJ action after TN judge stops mosque construction”, CAIR press release, 29 May 2012
Update: See “Ruling leaves Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in limbo”, Daily News Journal, 29 May 2012
Update 2: See “Lou Ann Zelenik praises mosque ruling as victory for victims of ‘Islamic lying'”, The Tennessean, 30 May 2012
Update 3: See “County says it won’t order halt to mosque construction”, The Tennessean, 30 May 2012
Update 4: See “Plaintiffs file injunction to stop construction of mosque”, Daily News Journal, 30 May 2012