Supreme Court Rejects Attempt to Shut Down Mosque Long-running legal battle ends; mosque is free to meet
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington D.C. – Today, in a significant victory for religious freedom, the Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit attempting to shut down a Tennessee mosque, ending a two-year-old legal fight. The ruling preserves an earlier victory gained by Becket, and ensures that the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is free to continue meeting at its newly built mosque.
“Today marks a triumph not just for the Muslims of Murfreesboro, but for people of all faiths. No house of worship should be kept from meeting just because the neighbors dislike their religious beliefs,” said Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel at Becket.
The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has been part of the Murfreesboro community for over thirty years. In 2010, the Islamic Center began building a new mosque to accommodate its growing congregation. Unfortunately, its efforts were met with hostile protests from a small group of local residents who claimed that the congregation was threatening solely because of its Muslim religious beliefs. Hostility toward the mosque culminated in acts of vandalism, arson, and even a bomb threat, which resulted in a federal indictment.In June 2012, opponents of the mosque sued Rutherford County, alleging that the County should not have given approval for construction of the mosque. A local Chancery Court judge ruled in favor of the mosque opponents, concluding that county approval of the mosque was subject to a heightened legal standard when compared with other houses of worship, due to the “tremendous public interest” surrounding the mosque.
In July 2012, Becket filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of the mosque in federal court, arguing that subjecting the Murfreesboro mosque to a different legal standard than a Christian church violated the federal Constitution and civil rights laws. The case was heard the day before the start of Ramadan—the holiest month in the Muslim calendar—and Chief Judge Todd Campbell issued a temporary restraining order requiring the County to conduct the inspection process and grant a certificate of occupancy for the mosque as it would for any other house of worship.In support of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, over 100 religious leaders from a wide variety of faith traditions signed an open letter calling for equal treatment of the mosque. And on August 10, 2012, the mosque was able to use its new building for the first time. Ultimately, Rutherford County appealed the initial decision from the Chancery Court, and the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled in the county’s favor, concluding that approval of the mosque was appropriate. The Tennessee Supreme Court declined to review the case, and today the U.S. Supreme Court did the same, putting an end to the attempt to shut down the mosque.
Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.” For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at email@example.com or call 202.349.7224.