MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Before a Rutherford County Commission meeting Thursday night, members of the group Middle Tennesseans for Religious Freedom (MTRF) held a silent demonstration outside the courthouse. Inside, residents who oppose a proposed Islamic Center sounded off.
"It has nothing to do with religion. It has nothing to do with race. It has nothing to do with intolerance, just to follow due process," according to Kevin Fisher who opposed the building of the Islamic Center.
Members of MTRF agreed some people may only be concerned about the size of the proposed mosque, at 52,000 square feel, but claim they are a small minority of the opposition.
"I do think the main concern of most the those opposed to the mosque is Islamaphobia," said MTRF member Yessi Vincent.
The topic of the Islamic Center was not even on Thursday's agenda. But residents are allowed to speak on any topic they wish during the public comment period.
In two different rounds of speakers, the opposition made its point very clear. First, they do not like the way the proposed center was approved.
"A lot of us kind of think it almost looks like a conspiracy," said one speaker.
"Whether it was due to fear of legal repercussions, or simply the planning commission being negligent in the duties, the did not do their jobs," Jim Estes said.
Another speaker told the commissioners they need to investigate everyone involved with the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. She claimed that is the only way to clear them of any threat to the community. She made it clear there would be legal action if they did not do so.
"Any failure to engage in such action will result in a lawsuit against both the county and you as commissioners individually, without immunity," she went on to say.
When the county mayor closed the public comment portion of the meeting, no one from MTRF had addressed the commission, even though a member claimed four people had signed up to speak.
"I'm not implying anything about them. I'm saying our voice was shut down and the only people who got to speak in this public forum were those opposed to the mosque. Even though there are quite a few of us up here who are in favor of the mosque," MTRF member Jase Short explained.
Petitions signed in opposition of the mosque were not turned into the county mayor Thursday night. Kevin Fisher said he will present them to the commission at its September meeting.
Several people at the meeting were quoted saying construction of the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro could start within the next couple of weeks.