Murfreesboro: Attorney Vows to Maintain Fight against Mosque

(hat tip: Eric Allen Bell)

ISLAMIC CENTER LAWSUIT: Attorney vows to maintain fight against mosque

The attorney representing residents suing Rutherford County over a proposed mosque solicited the public Friday for help — and money — while pledging to continue the court fight.

“The plaintiffs fully intend to continue to gather facts and evidence and proceed to a final hearing,” Murfreesboro lawyer Joe M. Brandon Jr. states in a “response” sent to media. “It is anticipated that the final hearing will occur after the full completion of discovery. This should be some time over the course of the next year.”

Brandon is representing plaintiffs Kevin Fisher, Lisa Moore and Henry Golczynski who filed suit after the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro acquired site plan approval May 24 from the county’s Regional Planning Commission to build a 52,960-square-foot community center with a mosque on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike southeast of Murfreesboro’s city limits.

The lawsuit challenges whether the county provided sufficient notice to the public about the agenda item and also questions whether Islam is a religion and should be afforded land use rights as with other churches.

Chancellor Robert Corlew Jr. concluded after several days of testimony spread over three months this fall that “Islam is in fact a religion” and found no grounds to issue a temporary restraining order to halt the mosque’s construction.

Brandon, though, notes in his letter that at the conclusion of the temporary hearing, the trial court ruled, ” … we are startled to find that the case advocated by the Defendants as the authoritative holding that Islam is a religion was actually a case wherein the Supreme Court held that display of aChristmas tree with an angel proclaiming ‘Glory to God in the highest’ on the stairway of a county courthouse had the effect of endorsing a Christian message.”

The trial court went on to state, “[w]e stress in our holding that there is a distinction between a legal finding that Islam is a religion compared with a religious finding that Islam is a religion. The religious scholars may debate for a lengthy period of time whether Islam meets their definition of a religion.”

Brandon argued repeatedly during the hearing that the Islamic Center poses a threat to the community based on the tenants of Shariah Law, and therefore should not be deemed a religion. It’s a point that Brandon says he will continue to challenge at the full hearing in the case.

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, meanwhile, has been charging ahead with its building plans on 15 acres. The congregation hopes to submit more detailed plans to obtain a building permit by March or April, said Saleh Sbenaty, a planning committee member for the Muslim congregation.

“We’re just finishing up the grading,” Sbenaty said during a Friday night phone interview. “The grading is taking more time because of the weather. After the grading is done, we will send the whole package for the building permit.”

Phase I of the building plans will be in the 10,000- to 11,000-square-foot range and include a reception hall that will also serve as a prayer area, an office for the imam (religious leader) and a small meeting room that can also serve as a nursery.

If enough money is available in Phase I, the ICM will also seek to build two outdoor pavilions and a playground between the two, added Sbenaty, an 18-year MTSU professor who teaches courses in electronics and computers for the Engineering Technology Department.

Long-term plans include a formal mosque area for worship, classrooms for weekend religious study, a gym, indoor pool, more offices, a multipurpose sports field, a basketball/tennis court and a private cemetery for ICM members.

Brandon, in addition to vowing to continue efforts to halt the project, implored anyone with information relevant to the case to forward it to his office.

“Additionally, should anyone feel led to make a donation toward attorney’s fees or other mandatory related costs, please give me a call, wherein, these matters can be discussed in depth,” Brandon states.

 

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