A court in Rutherford County continues to block Muslims from occupying their nearly-finished mosque in Murfreesboro. Monday a judge refused to back away while the case is appealed.
Chancellor Robert Corlew has ordered the county to withhold an occupancy certificate until the case is resolved. The fix, he says, would be to have another planning commission meeting to approve the project. He says the one in 2010 didn’t get enough public notice.
“If that meeting were to occur, I think that would remove all of the appeals.”
Corlew suggests the county needs to go above and beyond an ad in a free newspaper when notifying the public of meetings of particular interest.
Mary Springer is a former realtor who feels the mosque is getting special treatment. She says it’s hard to understand why the county doesn’t just do what the judge says and restart the permitting process.
“Are they going to get denied now? No, it’s already built. No, It’s not going to get denied. But they want to make a big issue of it and tie up more of our taxpayer money.”
Chancellor Corlew says the case has already proved costly for the government and will only balloon if the dispute reaches the state or even U.S. Supreme Court.
Bibles in Court
Opponents of the mosque carried Bibles into a hearing on the matter and at one point cheered from the gallery.
Darrel Whaley, a local pastor, says he expects the mosque will eventually be finished. But he also sees a point in challenging the project. He contends the Islamic faith is dangerous.
“A lot of people in this county understand Islam who didn’t, and that’s been a big help. So when the mosque gets built, it’s going to be under strict scrutiny. And we’re allowed to do that.”
Whaley and other opponents of the mosque still say Islam is not a religion and should not be protected by the First Amendment. Chancellor Corlew has ruled that Islam is constitutionally protected, but attorneys representing the planning commission say they’re being asked to treat an Islamic congregation differently from a Christian church.