Murfreesboro: federal judge extends Islamic Center additional time to finish mosque

A federal judge agreed Thursday to give the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro more time to complete construction and occupy its new building on Veals Road on the southeast side of town.

U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp extended a temporary restraining order until Aug. 15 after another federal judge last week ordered Rutherford County to restart the inspection process on the mosque.

County officials had held off inspecting the building based on a ruling from Rutherford County Chancellor Robert Corlew to not issue the organization a certificate of occupancy because of violations he saw in the county’s approval process two years ago.

Corlew was on the verge of ordering construciton on the site to be halted altogether when the federal judge ruled that federal law allows the ICM to move forward and granted a 14-day restraining order on Corlew’s ruling.

In light of the federal ruling last week, Corlew stayed his order entirely.

But after county officials visited the mosque site, it was determined that contractors were still two weeks away from finishing their work.

Nashville-based U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin said his office and Rutherford County asked the federal judge to provide more time to allow the ICM to complete the new mosque on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike and obtain a certificate of occupancy after passing final inspections from the local government.

“The United States Attorney’s Office all along has sought to compel the county to engage in the process to issue the occupation permit,” Martin said during a Thursday phone interview.

He said the federal government viewed Chancellor Corlew’s standard of creating a heightened public notice requirement for the mosque as being unconstitutional because you can’t treat one religious structure different than another.

“We are moving forward,” Martin said. “I’m confident that Rutherford County and the state of Tennessee (Fire Marshal) are acting appropriately to assure the occupation permit process is happening.”

In addition to Judge Sharp agreeing to giving the process more time, he scheduled a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at his courtroom at the Federal Building on Broadway in Nashville.

“This whole process is fluid,” Martin said. “We’re taking it one day at a time. We have monitored this process for the past two years.”

Daily News Journal, 26 July 2012