MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (CN) – Rutherford County commissioners voted 10-0 to approve a 52,000-square-foot Islamic center in Murfreesboro, despite concerns that the center’s board members were affiliated with Hamas and supported Sharia law, four residents claim in Rutherford County Court. They say county officials held secret meetings and failed to provide a public hearing that fully examined the “risks of actions promoting Jihad and terrorism.”
When the center’s location was approved on May 24, “there was considerable evidence of elevated risks to the public safety of citizens of Rutherford County from the proposed ICM [Islamic Center of Murfreesboro] compound,” the lawsuit states.
The residents are suing the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission, the Rutherford County Board of Commissioners and various county officials, including Mayor Ernest Burgess, for allegedly violating open meetings laws and citizens’ due-process rights.
The residents cite “public demonstrations” that allegedly showed center board members’ “support for and affiliation with” the terrorist group Hamas. They also cite “conduct suggesting promotion of ‘Dawa’ or proselytizing, that includes political practices of ‘Jihad’ to establish a caliphate and ‘Sharia Law’ in violation of the Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions.”
The planned center will include a mosque, cemetery, school and park, according to the complaint.
County officials allegedly approved the center’s location in a meeting that wasn’t properly announced, and held secret “pre-meetings” in violation of the Open Meetings Act and the Tennessee Sunshine Law.
Although the county announced its May 24 meeting, the notice omitted “any agenda reflecting site approval” for the Islamic center, the residents claim.
“Plaintiffs and few, if any, citizens of the County attended or participated in the meeting, but later learned that there had been a pre-meeting some time prior to May 24 that was attended by several Commissioners and an attorney for the County at which all Commissioners were reportedly advised by the Rutherford County Attorney and the Rutherford County Mayor that they had no choice but to vote to approve the ICM site,” the lawsuit states.
The residents also object to the county’s decision to allow a Muslim man who died six days before the Islamic center was approved to be buried at the site.
The plaintiffs say there was no public hearing to address the “significant questions” about potential zoning violations and the environmental risks of the burial, including possible soil or water contamination.
The county’s failure to provide a hearing to “examine the multiple uses of the [center’s] site and the risk of actions promoting Jihad and terrorism” violated their constitutional and due-process rights, the residents claim.
Plaintiffs James Estes, Kevin Fisher, Lisa Moore and Henry Golczynski seek a temporary restraining order blocking further action on the Islamic center and an order voiding the approval vote.
They are represented by Joe Brandon of Smyrna, Tenn.