An American flag welcomes worshippers to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro mosque on Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. Mosque members fought for two years in court battles to have the right to build and occupy the facility. / George Walker IV, The Tennessean
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- After nearly four years in the courts, the U.S. Supreme Court has put an end to a case concerning a opposition to construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro.
The court on Monday rejected a request to hear an appeal of a case, originally filed in September 2010, that challenged whether adequate public notice was given before Rutherford County officials approved a request to build the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
"That means the lawsuit over adequate notice is now completely over and Rutherford County has prevailed," ICM board member Saleh Sbenaty said.
The congregation still faces a separate lawsuit scheduled to return to local court June 19. That suit concerns obtaining approval from the Rutherford County Board of Zoning Appeals for having a cemetery at the 15-acre mosque site.
"We're hoping the cemetery lawsuit will also be dismissed soon and our community will heal," Sbenaty said. "And we'll celebrate together the fabric of our community. We are getting more diverse."
Plaintiffs' attorney Joe Brandon Jr. of Murfreesboro also confirmed that the case is over.
"It's in the Lord's hands now," said Brandon, who along with attorney Tom Smith of Franklin represented plaintiffs Kevin Fisher, Lisa Moore and Henry Golczynski. "We have done all we can do."
The plaintiffs persuaded local Chancellor Robert Corlew III to rule about two years ago that the government failed to provide adequate public notice before the county's Regional Planning Commission approved the ICM site plans to construct a 52,960-square-foot building southeast Murfreesboro.
A Tennessee Court of Appeals overruled Corlew about a year ago, and the Tennessee Supreme Court rejected hearing the case last fall.
The plaintiffs' attorneys then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case earlier this year.
Sbenaty, a professor at Middle Tennessee State University, said the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C., notified the ICM about the nation's top court turning down the case.
"We always believed that justice would prevail in this country, and we always believe in our justice system," Sbenaty said Monday. "Hopefully, this will put the end of the division the so-called opposition has created in our community, and our community will be stronger and united again."
Becket Fund attorney Luke Goodrich informed the ICM that the public notice case was over after checking on the U.S. Supreme Court latest rulings.
"The court doesn't explain why it's refusing to hear the case," said Goodrich. "The Supreme Court generally doesn't weigh in on purely state law issues."
The plaintiffs took on a congregation that started in 1982 and met in small spaces for its first 30 years. The ICM serves about 250 to 300 families and about 1,000 people overall. They had been holding their cramped worship services in 2,250 square feet on the back side of an office building before building their new center.
The congregation moved into the first 12,000 square feet of the new center August 2012 before Ramadan ended. The building includes a multipurpose room for worship, meals and other gatherings, as well as a kitchen and offices. The congregation has long-term plans to build a formal mosque for worship, classrooms for weekend religious school, a gym and an indoor pool.
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Read the original story: Supreme Court won't hear Tenn. mosque case