The state Court of Appeals has ruled that Rutherford County provided proper public notice before approving mosque construction plans in 2010, reports the Daily News Journal. The appeals court reversed local Chancellor Robert Corlew III’s decision a year ago that the county failed to provide adequate public notice before the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission approved construction plans for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro mosque on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike.
Corlew had ruled that the county’s May 2, 2010, public notice in The Murfreesboro Post about the meeting time, date and location without an agenda, didn’t reach enough people before planning commissioners approved the mosque plans May 24, 2010.
The planning commissioners in June 2012 voted to appeal Corlew’s decision. The matter might not end with the appeals court, though. The Tennessee Supreme Court will be asked to reverse the ruling, plaintiffs’ Murfreesboro attorney Joe Brandon said Thursday.
By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A court ruling that sets higher standards for a central component of the Tennessee’s open meetings law hasn’t drawn loud cheers from government transparency advocates.
In part that’s because the legal effort to stop construction of a mosque in Rutherford County is widely seen as being driven by fear of Muslims. But some good government groups also think the county government didn’t do anything wrong.
Rutherford County Chancellor Robert Corlew ruled May 29 that county officials violated the state’s Sunshine Law by not providing adequate public notice of the meeting where the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s new building was approved.
Corlew’s order does not require greater notice for all meetings in Rutherford County or even all meetings of the Planning Commission but specifically refers to meetings that involve either the Islamic Center or “further matters of significant public interest.”
By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Construction of a Tennessee mosque that has been strongly opposed by critics of Islam likely will be stopped after a judge ruled Tuesday that local officials didn’t give the public adequate notice before the meeting where it was approved.
The mosque was one of several Muslim projects in the U.S. that hit a swell of conservative opposition around the same time as the controversy over a plan to build a Muslim community center near New York’s ground zero.
Chancellor Robert Corlew found that the Rutherford County Planning Commission didn’t do enough to inform the public of the May 2010 meeting when it approved the site plan for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
Though his ruling voids the approval, he noted there was nothing stopping the commission from reconsidering the issue and voting on the mosque site plan again, as long as any action they take is for “non-discriminatory reasons.”
Saleh Sbenaty, a spokesman for the mosque, said the ruling was disappointing but his group remained committed to building the Islamic center. They have been worshipping for many years at a smaller site in Murfreesboro, a booming city of about 100,000 people southeast of Nashville.
A former FBI agent who claims Nashville’s mosques have no legal right to exist is training the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office about Islam and the threats of terrorism, according to The Tennessean. John Guandolo, vice president of the Arlington, Va.-based Strategic Engagement Group, is leading training being held at World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro. He spoke at an anti-Shariah law event at Cornerstone Church in Madison on Nov. 11, calling local mosques front organizations for the Muslim Brotherhood with no right to exist.
“They do not have a First Amendment right to do anything,” Guandolo said then.
Rutherford Sheriff Robert Arnold said his department simply wants to learn about Muslim culture.
“There are not many classes out there for anything when it comes to Muslims … but this training isn’t just about that, it has many other components to it,” he said. “My stance is and my office’s stance is, we are not here to pick sides. I am here to protect the people of this county, and I am never going to waiver from that.”
UPDATE: Murfreesboro Muslims saddened by Cain commentary, HERE.)
Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain opposes a planned Tennessee mosque that has been the subject of protests and legal challenges.
Cain didn’t bring up the controversial facility in a campaign rally on Thursday, but told reporters afterward that he’s concerned about the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
“It is an infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion,” he said. “And I don’t agree with what’s happening, because this isn’t an innocent mosque.”
The new mosque has been the subject of protests and counterprotests in the city about 35 miles southeast of Nashville.
A county judge ruled in May that the mosque construction does not harm the residents who sued to try to stop it, but he allowed them to move forward on claims the county violated an open meetings law in approving it.
Opponents have used the hearings to argue that the mosque is part of a plot to expand Islamic extremism in the U.S. Cain appeared to agree.
“It is another example of why I believe in American laws and American courts,” Cain said. “This is just another way to try to gradually sneak Shariah law into our laws, and I absolutely object to that.”
The father of a former Tennessee State University student charged with killing an Army private in 2009 urged lawmakers on Thursday to act against Islamic extremists such as those who he said “brainwashed” his son, reports The Tennessean.. Marvin Bledsoe said his son, Abdul Hakim Muhammad, was influenced by Muslim leaders in Nashville, where he converted to Islam while attending the university in 2004.
“Something is wrong with the Muslim leadership in Nashville,” Bledsoe, of Memphis, told the House Homeland Security Committee. “What happened to Carlos at those Nashville mosques isn’t normal.”
But leaders at Nashville’s mosques say they do not tolerate any violent behavior or anti-American sentiments in their communities. They say Abdul Hakim Muhammad, formerly Carlos Bledsoe, attended prayers at the Al-Farooq mosque and the Islamic Center of Nashville for a short period of time.
Then he disappeared.