County Officials Defend Action In Murfreesbroro Mosque Case
by Kim Gebbia
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The fight continued in Rutherford County to stop a new mosque from being built. On Wednesday, the citizens who want a temporary restraining order on the construction moved ahead with their case, as the court heard from three new witnesses.
At one point, the county attorney called the hearing a "circus" with aggressive, even argumentative questioning from the plaintiff's attorney, Joe Brandon.
Brandon is representing the citizens who want to put a temporary stop to construction. His argument is that Islam is not a religion and that by approving the mosque it will bring Sharia law to Rutherford County and put residents in danger.
During the questioning he asked County Commissioner Jerry Farley why he believed Islam was a real religion.
"Just because someone says they are a religion you take it hook, line and sinker?" asked Brandon.
Questioning the validity of Islam made up the bulk of Brandon's questions to the first two witnesses which included the County Mayor and Commissioner Farley.
Farley and Brandon had a back and forth on the issue.
"Islam from what I understand it is a religion," said Farley.
"And what do you base that on?" asked Brandon.
"I guess the Federal Government they just had a press conference yesterday saying it as of yesterday," responded Farley.
"The federal government said slavery was ok, didn't they sir?" asked Brandon.
Brandon was directly challenging Tuesday's announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice that state Islam is a recognized religion in the United States. That means it falls under the state law that allows a permit for a place of worship without a public hearing because of a specific "Right of Use" clause in Tennessee.
Brandon accused county leaders of passing the mosque permit quietly and through secret meetings to avoid public backlash. Mayor Burgess denied any such claims when asked by the County Attorney.
"No, that is typical for many, many religious organizations who put in a site plan request," said Mayor Burgess.
Brandon then suggested that by approving the mosque, county leaders approving Sharia law and putting citizens in danger. He is hoping the argument will gain ground and that the judge will call for a public hearing and construction will be put on hold.
"We didn't approve Sharia law when we approved this site plan," Burgess said on the stand.
Part of the argument also attempted to link the county mayor to a board member from the mosque since both once worked at the National Healthcare Corporation in the 1980's. The board member is the one who applied for the building permit.
The hearing continues in Chancery Court on Thursday.