How to Build a Mosque in Tennessee
Muslims in Murfeesboro, Tennessee have been trying to build a mosque for years. A structure is finally up, they wanted to be able to use it by the time Ramadan starts, at sundown today, but they won't be able to. What happened? The Muslims got a lesson in just how literally true it is that you need the government to build something on your own property in this country. The trouble started as soon as the plans became public, with opponents of the planned mosque showing up to a public hearing at the local county commission in June 2010. The Tennessean reported:
Plans for a new Islamic center south of Murfreesboro have some residents denouncing the Muslim religion and others calling the dispute one of the ugliest displays of religious intolerance in the county's history.
Questions of whether the public was given adequate notice about the proposed mosque and community center off Bradyville Pike quickly turned into attacks on the Muslim faith during the public comment portion of Thursday's Rutherford County Commission meeting.
The county commission couldn't do anything about it but not because the notion that they could is ridiculous. Back to The Tennessean:
The county's zoning resolution, approved in 1984, grants property owners a use by right to build religious institutions, houses and farms outside city limits.
That means the developer does not need to seek a zone change for the land and go through public hearings at the planning commission and the county commission. The developer of a religious institution only needs to seek site plan approval to ensure the project will adhere to rules for building setbacks, parking, landscaping and other requirements.
County Commissioner Mike Sparks said the Islamic Center is too big not to examine it in more detail. It may require a turn lane on Bradyville Pike.
"That will be a dangerous intersection, no doubt," Sparks said. "I feel like the planning commission dropped the ball. I never knew this was coming up.
Land of the free! Two years later, the building is up, but the government (of the people!) wasn't done yet. The Muslims needed an "occupancy certificate." From The Tennessean last month:
A Murfreesboro judge has blocked local officials from issuing an occupancy certificate for a new mosque.
The move comes about two weeks after Rutherford County Chancellor Robert Corlew ruled that construction approval for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was void. Corlew agreed with mosque opponents that there was not sufficient public notice of the meeting where construction had been approved two years earlier.
Yesterday, a federal court overruled the local judge. But even after the government's "let" you build something, you can't open it by yourself either. The Tennessean reports:
Rutherford County Building Codes Director David Jones said this morning inspection of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro's new mosque remains "preliminary."
It could take two weeks before the Veals Road mosque site is ready for final inspection, Jones told The DNJ, a day after a federal judge ordered the county to inspect the building in time for the Islamic religious holiday Ramadan, which starts today at sundown.
The ICM still has exterior work to do, including installation of septic facilities, and must obtain inspections and approval from entities such as the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the state fire marshal and Consolidated Utility District, as well as a final inspection by county building codes, according to Jones.
And then the government will have built a mosque in Tennessee. Freedom of religion? All rights have limits.