Published: September 28, 2010
Attorneys in a lawsuit seeking to stop construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro spent a full second day focused on one witness.
Rutherford County Planning Director Doug Demosi took the stand in Chancery Court enduring hours of examination. Plaintiff's attorney Joe Brandon Jr. lashed out at Demosi under several sustained objections, some for "badgering the witness."
"Did you do anything to determine this was a religious meeting place," Brandon asked Demosi in reference to a May 24 site plan approval for a new mosque on Veals Road.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit contend through witness testimony that the proposed Islamic Center of Murfreesboro (ICM) does not meet the standard of a religious meeting place. Plaintiffs argued in court area Muslims want to institute Sharia Law in Murfreesboro and say Demosi and county officials should have investigated the political agenda of Muslim members before approving mosque site plans.
"The county can make no law that gives preferential treatment or unduly burdens the free practice of religion," Demosi told the court.
"What if Osama bin Laden had filed for approval of a mosque? Would you have done anything differently," Brandon asked to the sustained objection of County Attorney Jim Cope.
Brandon attempted to show the court Demosi would not go above and beyond his legal obligations to inform the public that a mosque would be built in their neighborhood.
"Are you suggesting you would give approval to a mosque with a connection to Jihad or without any assurances bodies are buried deep enough so they don't stink," Brandon asked Demosi.
Plaintiffs argued they should have been given notice before approval of a burial on the property, but defense attorneys showed such approval does not require public comment or proof there is a dead body.
"If someone came in wanting approval to bury a body, I have to assume that's what they want to do," Demosi said.
Brandon sought to show Demosi's conditional-use permit approving a May burial on the site of the proposed mosque constituted unilateral approval of a cemetery. The defense showed, however, that such approval is separate and has not yet been granted by the county.
Under county zoning regulations, the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission approves burial requests and leaves issues of how a body is buried in the county to the state.
Plaintiffs also sought unsuccessfully to prevent a documentary film maker from joining cameras from CNN, WTVF (CBS), WZTV (FOX), WKRN (ABC) and WSMV (NBC).
Another plaintiff was also dropped from the case yesterday under an order of non-suit.
James Estes, an outspoken opponent of the proposed mosque was one of six original plaintiffs. Two plaintiffs were removed by amendment when they were erroneously included by Brandon. Plaintiffs Kevin Fisher and Lisa Moore were the only two who appeared in court today.
Chancellor Robert E. Corlew III set two hours aside tomorrow to continue the lawsuit beginning at 8:15 with subsequent dates of Oct. 20-22 to wrap up the case.