Attorneys representing opponents of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro filed an appeal Monday with the Tennessee Supreme Court in an effort to get a previous ruling overturned in their favor.
The filing comes just two months after the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled the Rutherford County Planning Commission did provide adequate public notice prior to approving construction of the Islamic Center, which opened in August 2012 after the U.S. Department of Justice intervened in the case.
In late May, the Appeals Court reversed a ruling by Chancellor Robert Corlew III, who has contended the Planning Commission failed to properly inform Rutherford County residents because a public notice published May 2, 2010, in The Murfreesboro Post was insufficient.
For weeks, attorneys Joe Brandon Jr. and Thomas Smith, of Franklin, have hinted that they would file an appeal in the case on the grounds that the Rutherford County government should have done more to notify residents about the new mosque, located on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike.
“The rights of my clients have been ignored for the past three years,” Brandon said during a recent interview. “We think there are constitutional issues that have not been addressed. … The government should be required to treat everyone equally.”
As part of his argument, Brandon insists that the Appeals Court decision abolishes any type of standard for public notices.
“No matter where you come down on this case, whether you are a multimillionaire or living paycheck to paycheck, you are entitled to receive public notice and information about what the government is doing,” Brandon said in May during an interview about the Appeals Court ruling. “And this ruling throws that concept out the window.”
Much of his statements mirror the decision made by Corlew, who lost a bid for a seat on the Appeals Court in 2007.
In his July 2012 ruling, Corlew rationalized his decision by saying Islamic Center opponents argued “persuasively that the issue before us was in fact a matter of great public importance and a matter of tremendous public interest.”
As such, he ruled the Planning Commission should have utilized multiple media outlets, which is not required by law, to inform residents about the Islamic Center proposal to build a 52,000-square-foot mosque.
Corlew also said an agenda detailing what items would be considered at the May 24, 2010, meeting should have been included in the public notice.
According to the Appeals Court, however, both reasons behind his decision were flawed because Tennessee law does not require either heightened requirement for a regularly scheduled meeting involving site plan proposals, which do not involve rezoning.
The Appeals Court also ruled that an agenda does not have to be published before a regularly scheduled meeting.