Islamic Center Of Murfreesboro v. Rutherford County, Tennessee

    • Vandals spray painted "Not Welcome" on this sign announcing the ICM's new mosque

    • The current mosque facilities are inadequate to hold the congregation

    • This tractor was intentionally set on fire at the construction site of the new mosque. Police continue to look for the perpetrator.

It was supposed to be like any other house of worship…

In 2010, the Muslim community in Murfreesboro, Tennessee began building a mosque and community center. Little did they know, their innocuous plans would incite a maelstrom of violence, bigotry and an ugly legal battle.

The Muslim community soon faced vocal protests from local residents who claimed among other things that Islam is not a religion, and that the First Amendment doesn’t protect Muslims.

Of course, this is an absurd charge, and Muslims have the right to practice freely just like any other religion.

Unfortunately, these hateful words were backed by even more hateful violence. There were numerous instances of vandalism and arson, and even a bomb threat that ended in a federal indictment.

Hostility to the mosque culminated in a lawsuit by local residents. Although the mosque was approved at a typical meeting of the county planning commission in 2010, after the county provided typical public notice, the judge ruled that such notice—standard compared to other religious groups—was not enough. Due to “tremendous public interest” surrounding the mosque, the county approval process is subject to a heightened legal standard when compared with other houses of worship.

The case is urgent—the congregation wants to be allowed to enter the mosque in time to celebrate Ramadan—the holiest time in the Muslim calendar.

The Becket Fund is stepping in on behalf of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

We are arguing that subjecting the mosque to a different legal standard than a Christian church violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses of the Constitution. A double standard infringes on the guarantee of religious freedom for all.

No religion is an island; this case affects everyone. When the rights of one faith are abridged, the rights of all faiths are threatened.

On July 18, 2012, Chief Judge Todd Campbell of the Nashville federal district court ruled that Rutherford County, Tennessee must allow the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in Murfreesboro, Tennessee to complete the inspection process so it can use its mosque building in time for the religious holiday of Ramadan.

Finally, on August 10, 2012, members of the Islamic Center used their newly built mosque for prayer services for the first time.

On May 29, 2013, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that Rutherford County, Tennessee, properly approved the site plan for the mosque.

  • Media Essentials
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Judge Campbell’s Order (July 18, 2012)

Becket Fund’s Complaint

Media Information Sheet

United Support Letter for Murfreesboro Mosque


July 18, 2012, Press ReleaseFederal Judge orders Tennessee County to allow mosque ability to open for Ramadan

July 18, 2012, Press ReleaseTennessee mosque sues in federal court for right to celebrate religious holiday

August 10, 2012, Press Release, Mosque Free to Open Today, a Win for All Religious Houses of Worship

8-10-12 Lori Windham on Fox News

Rutherford County wins appeal on mosque approval, The Tennessean (5-30-13)

Federal judge allows Murfreesboro mosque opponents to intervene, The Tennessean (8-30-12)

Federal judge allows mosque opponents to intervene, Chattanooga Times Free Press (8-29-2012)

A week before Ramadan ends, disputed Tennessee mosque opens doors, Los Angeles Times (8-10-12)

Embattled Tennessee mosque opens, Fox News (8-10-12)

Murfreesboro mosque foes seek to challenge federal ruling, The Tennessean (7-31-12)

MOSQUE WINS: Passing county codes inspection is last obstacle, Daily News Journal (7-19-12)

Tenn. mosque unready for Ramadan due to lawsuit delays, Christian Science Monitor (7-19-12)

Tennessee Mosque Fights To Open Before Ramadan, NPR (7-19-12)

 Mosque opponents say they were ‘circumvented’ in court action, The Tennessean (7-18-12)

Tenn. mosque can open, federal judge rules, USA Today (7-18-12)

Mosque spokesman: Lawsuit to occupy mosque a last resort (with video), Daily News Journal (7-18-12)

Judge Allows Muslims to Use Tennessee Mosque, New York Times (7-18-12)

Judge grants Tenn. mosque petition, orders county to move ahead with opening new building, Washington Post (7-18-12)

Federal judge paves way for Tennessee mosque to open for Ramadan, CNN (7-18-12)

Federal judge sides with Tennessee mosque in time for Ramadan, LA Times (7-18-12)

Muslim congregation seeks court order to use mosque for Ramadan, Reuters (7-18-12)

TV Coverage

Luke Goodrich on Nashville News 5 (7-18-12)

CNN’s Unwelcome: Muslims Next Door (3-24-11)

7-18-12, Luke Goodrich on Nashville News 5

8-10-12, Lori Windham on Fox News

3-24-11 CNN’s Unwelcome: Muslims Next Door