Thursday, July 19, 2012

Federal Order Allows Mosque to Open

Federal District Court Judge Todd Campbell ordered yesterday that the Islamic Mosque in Murfreesboro be permitted to open in time for Ramadan. As has been widely reported before, the mosque was about 98% complete, but unfortunately the Chancery Court in Rutherford County had previously issued an order prohibiting occupancy, based upon that court's conclusion that the Tennessee Open Public Meetings Act, TCA §8-44-101 et seq., had been violated.

Of course, any violation of the act was not attributable to the Mosque. In fact, the Islamic Mosque had complied with each and every requirement of the County government. At the same time, the County's hands were tied by the Chancery Court order.

Judge Campbell had little difficulty concluding that there was a substantial burden under the terms of the federal RLUIPA, and that a temporary injunction should issue.

The continuing appeal up to the Tennessee Court of Appeals will present the interesting issue of what is "adequate notice" under the terms of the Open Public Meetings Act. Although in the past, I have always felt that the act requires only the bare minimum in terms of notice, Chancellor Corlew in Rutherford County obviously felt that more was required under the circumstances of the Islamic Mosque case. The Court of Appeals decision may at least clarify some of those issues.

It is however certainly appropriate that the Mosque can open in time for the religious holiday, especially when it is clear that the Mosque complied with all the requirements of the law.

A copy of the Rutherford County Chancery Court decision may be found here.

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