Judge's ruling stops construction of Murfreesboro mosque - WSMV News 4

Judge's ruling stops construction of Murfreesboro mosque

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A judge has ruled that construction of a controversial Murfreesboro mosque must cease immediately.

Chancellor Robert Corlew III ruled that construction must cease because not enough notice was given about May 2010 public meeting.

Corlew ruled in favor of Kevin Fisher and other Rutherford County residents who sued claiming adequate notice wasn't given when the site plan was approved for the new Islamic center.

"It's a good day for the plaintiffs. I'm very pleased with the outcome," said plaintiff Henry Golcyznky.

Golcyznky said he was somewhat surprised Corlew in the plaintiffs' favor.

"There should have been public notice. People should have been allowed to come in and express or at least understand what was going on. But to rubber stamp it so quickly, and nobody have any information as to what was going on," Golcyznky said.

But the news isn't welcome for Murfreesboro Islamic Center members who were hoping to have the mosque completed in time for the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

Construction of the mosque is well under way.

"This decision comes at a crucial time, because we were at a point about to celebrate the opening of our center which we were hoping to happen, probably within two to three months. It's a sad day in our community," said mosque member Saleh Sbenaty.

In a nutshell, Corlew determined the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission didn't give sufficient notice for the public meeting held on May 24, 2010, during which the site plans for the mosque were approved.

"Action of the Rutherford Regional Planning Commission is declared to be void," Corlew concluded. "There was insufficient notice for the public meeting held on May 24, 2010. Under the terms of the law, then, the decisions reached at that meeting are void ab initio."

Corlew notes that his opinion does not prevent the Rutherford County Planning Commission from reconsidering the issue and approving the mosque site plan again, but they will have to give proper notice this time, according to Corlew.

Mosque opponents have fought construction for two years, arguing that Islam is not a real religion deserving of First Amendment protections and that the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has terrorist ties.

"They are going to have many hurdles, and they may want to start with not committing a forgery right off the bat this time. You have the issue that this is not a religious organization. This is a Sharia compliant training organization, nothing more and nothing less," said plaintiffs' attorney Joe Brandon.

The judge dismissed those allegations but held a trial on the narrower claim that the public meeting law was violated.

"The county is reviewing its options going forward. There are a number of issues and items to consider, and those will be discussed with the appropriate county officials in the days ahead to make a determination," said county attorney Jim Cope.

The judge's ruling is drawing a lot of nationwide attention Tuesday, including from a well-known civil liberties group that wants the federal government to step in.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling for the Department of Justice to intervene in the case if the county doesn't issue new building permits to, "protect the religious rights of Tennessee Muslims."

Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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