Murfreesboro mosque opponents appear in Chancery Court


Attorneys representing opponents, including Kevin Fisher (pictured here) of the construction of an Islamic community center in Murfreesboro appeared in Chancery Court Monday morning. TMP/C. Grantham

Attorneys representing opponents of the construction of an Islamic community center in Murfreesboro appeared in Chancery Court Monday morning.Plaintiffs asked Chancellor Robert E. Corlew III to impose an injunction on any further construction on the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro claiming approval did not provide adequate public comment and that its members will impose Sharia Law on Murfreesboro residents."Why would we give any religion the right to cancel our rights under the United States Constitution," Plaintiff's Attorney Joe Brandon Jr. said in opening statements to the court. "If the Planning Commission had approved this for Osama bin Laden, would they still feel there should be no public hearing?"The lawsuit was filed Sept. 16 in Chancery Court by six individuals. An amended complaint was filed the next day by Brandon to remove two names who did not want to be associated with the lawsuit. Kevin Fisher, James Estes, Lisa Moore and Henry Golczynski are plaintiffs and were present.Plaintiffs and other residents expressed their fear and anger at three previous meetings of the Rutherford County Board of Commissioners. The public comments followed a May rezoning approval for new Mosque construction on Veals Road.The 52,000-square-foot facility was approved under a new state law that allows religious institutions to build in residential neighborhoods as a "use by right." The Tennessee Religious Freedom Act, sponsored by State Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), goes above and beyond a similar federal law enacted in 2000 by forcing local governments to provide "clear and convincing evidence" of the government's interest when denying building plans of religious institutions.Attorneys for the plaintiffs claim public notices for the rezoning were not adequate and that an injunction would prevent imminent or irreparable harm to the plaintiffs."If we were enjoined, I suspect the injunction, as entered, would prevent the county from doing inspections," defendant co-counsel Josh McCreary told the court. "Building would then continue without the county's oversight."Plaintiffs called former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan, Frank Gaffney, to the stand and asked the court to enter him as an expert on Sharia Law. "I don't hold myself out as an expert on Sharia Law," Gaffney told the court on the witness stand. "But I have talked a lot about that as a threat."

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