A chancery court judge ruled today that the construction of a mosque in middle Tennessee can continue. The judge denied a request for a restraining order.
Three local residents had accused Rutherford County of breaking open meeting laws when it approved construction of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. Their lawyers — funded, in part, by an anti-Islam Christian Zionist group — quickly made the suit about Islam, however. They claimed that Islam is not a religion, prompting the Justice Department to file a brief noting that the federal government has recognized Islam as a religion since the days of Thomas Jefferson.
The judge, Robert Corlew III, ruled that the three plaintiffs did not prove that they had been hurt by the mosque’s approval. Nor, he said, did they prove that the mosque would pose a threat to the community. He did, however, say he was concerned about some of the associations of mosque members. Plaintiffs had argued that some leaders of the mosque had ties to extremists.
The hearing, which has dragged on for several weeks and featured star witness and notable fearmonger Frank Gaffney, often devolved into a circus. The plaintiff’s lawyers asked witnesses if they believed in having sex with children (arguing that pedophilia is a tenet of Islam) and dismissed the DOJ’s brief, arguing that one shouldn’t trust the federal government because it once endorsed slavery.
Jim Cope, the county attorney who defended the case, told TPM, “We are indeed pleased that it has come to a conclusion.”
The case could continue, should the plaintiffs appeal Corlew’s decision and try to take the suit to a full trial.
Laurie Cardoza-Moore, the president of the group that’s helping fund the suit, said she is planning to meet with the plaintiffs to discuss their next steps. She said it was “very positive” that the judge said he was concerned about some of the mosque members’ ties.