Tenn. Mosque Opponents File Lawsuit To Block Construction

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Opponents of a proposed mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn., have sued several of the town’s officials in an attempt to stop construction.

The opponents, led by Kevin Fisher, filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that county officials violated open meeting laws and, therefore, that the approval of the mosque project is void.

According to Fisher et al, the officials didn’t give proper notice for the planning commission meeting where the mosque was approved, and also held a secret “pre-meeting” that was closed to the public.A chancery court judge denied their request for a restraining order to stop construction. A show cause hearing will be held next Monday.

The officials, including County Mayor Ernest Burgess, deny the existence of a secret meeting. Burgess said the claim “is an outright falsehood.”

The planning commission gave three weeks notice of the meeting where the mosque was approved, according to the Murfreesboro Post, but did not publish the agenda. One open government advocate told the Post that’s not a violation of the law.

“I know of no requirement that an agenda has to be published with the notice of a regular commission,” said Frank Gibson, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. “The onus is on concerned citizens to find out what is on the agenda.”

The future mosque and community center — an expansion of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, which says it has outgrown its current space — has been the subject of intense opposition, culminating in vandalism and arson. Earlier this year, vandals wrote “Not welcome” on a sign marking the construction site. And the FBI and ATF are investigating an arson at the site which destroyed a piece of construction equipment.

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