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VOL. 37 | NO. 9 | Friday, March 01, 2013

State appeals court hears arguments in mosque case

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NASHVILLE (AP) - If the state Court of Appeals upholds a lower court's ruling that Rutherford County officials held an illegal meeting when they approved plans for a new mosque, the question will be, "What next?"

The lawsuit initially was filed in 2010 by a group of residents attempting to block construction of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. But as the case dragged on in the courts, the mosque was built, and it is now in use.

The Daily News Journal (http://on.dnj.com/XLOXsO ) reports that during an Appeals Court hearing on Tuesday, Judge Andy Bennett suggested that the case was moot.

"It's there. It's operating," he said of the mosque.

Attorney Joe Brandon, who represents the residents suing over the mosque, said the case was still important.

"The rights of the people has to override the government," he said.

Opposition to the mosque has drawn national attention, and member s have faced public protests, vandalism, arson and a bomb threat.

In June, a Chancery Court judge ordered Rutherford County to withhold the occupancy permit for the nearly completed building after finding that the meeting where the mosque was approved violated Tennessee's Open Meetings law.

The Islamic Center, which was not a party to the lawsuit, got an emergency order in federal court allowing it to open. Outstanding issues in the federal case have been put on hold pending the decision in the Tennessee Court of Appeals. That could take several months.

County officials have argued that the planning commission meeting where the mosque was approved was valid. They say they advertised that meeting just like any other county meeting.