The lawsuit to stop the construction of a mosque in middle Tennessee is getting expensive. The preliminary hearing has dragged on, with several days of testimony stretching over more than a month. The county has added $50,000 to its litigation budget to cover expected defense costs and is warning that that number could go up.
So who’s funding the plaintiffs — three local residents who don’t have access to taxpayer money?
Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, a Christian Zionist group, hired and is paying the fees for one of the two lawyers on the case.
The lawsuit alleges that officials in Rutherford County violated its open meeting laws when approving an expansion of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. The plaintiffs, however, have spent much of their time in court arguing that Islam is not a religion.
Hiring legal representation is not PJTN’s only connection to the lawsuit. The group has been active in Murfreesboro, holding events at the homes of mosque opponents and selling copies of its movies. As noted by the Murfreesboro Post, at least two of the plaintiffs’ witnesses — witnesses who testified that teaching from the Koran is “breaking the law” and that approving the mosque would lead to future “dangers” — have attended these events and given money to PJTN.
The group, which is based in Tennessee, is run by Laurie Cardoza-Moore. Cardoza-Moore believes, among other things, that nearly all Muslims — including those in middle Tennessee — follow a strict interpretation of the Koran: beating their wives, marrying children and killing dishonorable family members.
“Do I believe that Muslims subscribe to those things? If they are good Muslims, they will adhere to the Koran’s teachings. Do I believe it’s happening here? Yes,” she told TPMmuckraker.
If Cardoza-Moore seems familiar, that might be because she appeared in a “Daily Show” segment about the proposed mosque in August. She was also in the news earlier this year after Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) spoke at a PJTN event, and Cardoza-Moore — in violation of IRS regulations about nonprofits — encouraged members to donate money to the congresswoman’s campaign.
In an interview, Cardoza-Moore also said she believes that, although the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has existed without incident for 30 years, it’s been hijacked by more radical Muslims who would impose Sharia law and declare jihad on the U.S. and Israel.
And as for that arson at the mosque’s construction site? “An inside job,” she said, “to try to stir the media up to side with them.”
Cardoza-Moore confirmed that she is paying for one of the lawyers.
“I sought him out for legal counsel, for the community, to hear their case and defend them in a court of law,” she said.
As for the other lawyer, one of the three plaintiffs has testified that she is not paying him.
“Donations is how I get paid,” the lawyer told the plaintiff, Lisa Moore, in court, according to the Daily News Journal. “You’re not obligated to pay me one cent.”
That lawyer, Joe Brandon Jr., did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did the other attorney, J. Thomas Smith, or any of the plaintiffs.
[Ed. note: this article was edited after publication]