Friday, May 20, 2011

Most Claims Challenging Murfreesboro Mosque Are Dismissed

A Tennessee state Chancery Court judge has dismissed most of plaintiffs' claims in a widely publicized lawsuit seeking to prevent construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal as well as AP report that Chancellor Robert Corlew dismissed all the challenges to the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission's approval of building plans, but is allowing plaintiffs to move ahead with their claim that the county violated the Open Meetings Act when it publicized the Planning Commission meeting only in the Murfreesboro Post. Plaintiffs claim this is not a "newspaper of general circulation."  The case attracted particular attention when plaintiffs' attorney suggested that Islam is not a "religion" but instead is a political movement so that the proposed mosque should not get the special zoning treatment given to houses of worship. (See prior posting.) Chancellor Corlew wrote in his opinion:
We must note that, under the law, the Plaintiffs have not demonstrated a loss different from that which is common to all citizens of Rutherford County.... That Islam is a religion has been proven in this case. That the county ordinance allows construction of a church or place of meeting within a residential planning zone as a matter of right in this case is further undisputed.