New York, NY, September 27, 2010 … The newly formed Interfaith Coalition on Mosques (ICOM) today took its first action in support of a mosque. On behalf of ICOM, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) filed a brief opposing a lawsuit which is intended to stop a Murfreesboro, Tenn. mosque from being built.
ICOM, formed in early September to assist those Muslim communities confronting opposition to the legal building, expansion or relocation of their mosques is comprised of prominent individuals and organizations from different faith traditions – Christian, Jewish and Muslim.
The lawsuit in this case is an example of such obstruction as it presents an artificial roadblock to delay the start of this approved project and to deny the mosque's sponsors their religious freedom to worship freely. ICOM is confident that this lawsuit has no merit and that its brief will help the court conclude that the law protects religious freedom from just this kind of action.
Opponents of this new mosque had asked a judge to block the project arguing that in approving the mosque, county officials violated Tennessee law by failing to give proper public notice of a meeting discussing the project and placed county citizens at risk because, they claimed, "there was considerable evidence of elevated risks to the public safety of citizens of Rutherford County from the proposed ICM compound."
ICOM's amicus brief to the Chancery Court urges the court to rely on "Tennessee's and America's well-settled and robust history of religious tolerance and acceptance as its guiding principle," and argues that nothing in the complaint established the highest-order government interest that would justify interfering with the religious freedom of the mosque's builders.
The brief relies upon the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) – a statute ADL was instrumental in passing – which safeguards the religious freedom of houses of worship and other religious institutions in the land-use context by requiring courts to apply a strict standard for reviewing laws that substantially burden religious exercise.
The case is Estes v. Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission.