U.S. Supreme Court won’t consider stopping Murfreesboro mosque

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of a group of neighbors who tried unsuccessfully to block the construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

A board member of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro said he was hopeful that Monday’s announcement by the court will bring unity back into the community.

“We’re relieved, we’re excited, we’re happy,” said Saleh Sbenaty. “We always believed in our justice system, and we believed that justice would always prevail in this country, and we had no doubt that the Supreme Court would make the right decision.” Sbenaty said outsiders have come into Murfreesboro with a national agenda against Islam. The decision, he said, brings to a close the years long case.

It’s not clear what opponents of the mosque will do next.

“It’s in the Lord’s hands,” said Joe Brandon Jr., one of the attorneys who represented the group opposed to the center. “We have done all we can do.” He declined to comment any further.

Neighbors have been arguing since 2010 that approval for construction was illegal. They contended there wasn’t enough public notice for a meeting when the planning commission approved the project. The mosque was built anyway as the case moved through the local court system, because a federal judge ruled that it would be a violation of religious freedom and land-use rights not to allow Muslims to use the center.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals had already ruled that the public notice for the meeting that ultimately approved construction of the center complied with state law. The neighbors appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court after the Tennessee Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Opponents of the mosque have now filed suit against plans to build a cemetery on the Islamic Center property.

Construction of the 12,000-aquare foot center has divided this college town about 30 miles southeast of Nashville. Vandals set fire to construction equipment and someone spray-painted the words “not welcome” on a sign.