Regional
2:30 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Tennessee Mosque Construction Halted Over Public Notice Issue

A judge in Tennessee ruled Tuesday that the public wasn't properly notified about a meeting where local officials approved the plan for a proposed mosque, meaning construction of the disputed project will be stopped.

The new facility for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro 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 Corlow noted that his ruling doesn't stop the Rutherford County Planning Commission from reconsidering the issue and again approving the site plan in the booming city of about 100,000 people southeast of Nashville.

Saleh Sbenaty, a spokesman for leaders of the mosque, said the ruling was disappointing but his group remains committed to building the Islamic center. They have been worshipping for many years at a smaller site in the community.

The opponents of the mosque have fought for two years to stop construction. During lengthy hearings in 2010, they presented testimony that in effect put Islam on trial. A string of witnesses questioned whether Islam is a legitimate religion and promoted a theory that American Muslims want to replace the Constitution with extremist Islamic law and the mosque was a part of that plot.

The judge dismissed those allegations but held a trial on the narrower claim that the public meeting law was violated because meeting notice wasn't adequate. The meeting notice was published in the Murfreesboro Post, a free weekly newspaper that claims distribution to 45,000 homes in the county of more than 250,000.