MURFREESBORO (AP) — A Rutherford County judge reaffirmed his ruling in May that allowed for the construction of a new mosque in Murfreesboro following a challenge by opponents who wanted to halt construction.
Chancellor Robert Corlew sent a response Monday to plaintiffs who had asked him to reconsider his earlier ruling that the members of the mosque had a legal right to build a bigger place of worship, the Daily News Journal reported (http://bit.ly/qtIS9u ).
"Those who are adherents to Islam are entitled to pursue their worship in the United States just as are those who are adherents to more universally established faiths (in our community)," Corlew wrote. "We are all very familiar with the legal principle that in the United States, all citizens enjoy the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech."
Plaintiffs' attorney Joe Brandon Jr. has argued that the mosque violated his clients' constitutional rights, claiming that Islamic Center of Murfreesboro's members were compelled by their religion to subdue non-Muslims and that Islam was a doctrine, not a religion.
Corlew has allowed the plaintiffs to move forward on claims the county violated an open meetings law on giving sufficient proper notice before the Regional Planning Commission met to vote on the center's plans to build a new community center.
Brandon said Corlew expressed "grave concern" regarding the issue of proper notice.
"... We believe victory is certain from the issue of lack of notice. We're glad that issues are becoming more crystallized to finally bring this case to a conclusion," Brandon said.
But Brandon disagreed with the judge's determination that Islam is a protected religion.
"We would agree that there are religious aspects of Islam, but there are also legal, political and cultural aspects of Islam that can hardly be defined as religious," he said. "Further, the legal, political and cultural aspects make up the majority of the doctrine known as Islam."
County defense attorney Josh McCreary said he was pleased with both of the judge's decisions.
"We thought that the court's ruling was well-reasoned and thought out, and we are pleased that he has affirmed his previous dismissal order," McCreary said.
No trial has been set on the plaintiffs' remaining claim.
Information from: The Daily News Journal, http://www.dnj.com