Religious Freedom: Tenn. Court Affirms That Isn’t Just For Christians Any More

The assertion that Islam isn’t really a religion and thus doesn’t deserve the protection of the First Amendment deserves to be tossed out of court.

Guess what, folks? Muslims have the right to build houses of worship in America!

Shocking, isn’t it?

Apparently it is to some people in Murfreesboro, Tenn. They’ve been in state court trying to stop some Muslims from expanding a mosque there.

Why? Well, they just don’t much like Muslims.

As a legal argument, that leaves a little to be desired. And on Monday Chancellor Robert Corlew III of the Sixteenth Judicial District reaffirmed an earlier ruling and shot it down in flames.

“Those who are adherents to Islam are entitled to pursue their worship in the United States just as are those who are adherents to more universally established faiths (in our community),” ruled Chancellor Corlew. (“Chancellor” is a title applied to some judges in Tennessee state courts.)

Continued Corlew, “We have a duty equally to treat those whose religious beliefs are similar to the majority beliefs and to those whose beliefs are very different from the majority. If the zoning laws are too favorable to those seeking to build places of worship, then citizens should prevail upon their elected representatives to change those ordinances, but until they do the Court must apply those laws equally to Protestant Christians, Roman Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists and others.”

Murfreesboro Muslims want to build a 52,960-square-foot community center and mosque to replace their existing structure. Their plans have got some people all riled up. Joe Brandon Jr., an attorney representing 17 local residents who are trying to block the Muslims from expanding their house of worship, is relying on a legal argument that could charitably be called creative: He says Islam isn’t a religion.

“Chancellor Corlew seems to go on and on that it’s been decided that Islam is a religion, and we take issue with that,” Brandon groused to the Nashville Tennessean. “There’s no proof in this case that Islam is a religion. There is no case law or code that Islam is a religion.”

Okaaaaay. So, Mr. Brandon, if Islam isn’t a religion, what is it exactly?

It’s remarkable that in 2011, courts even have to waste time entertaining arguments like this. I understand that every American deserves his or her day in court, but some arguments are just fallacious and deserve to be summarily tossed out.  The assertion that Islam isn’t really a religion and thus doesn’t deserve the protection of the First Amendment is one of them.

To me, Chancellor Corlew showed commendable restraint. Judge Boston would have been tempted to slap Brandon and his gang with sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit. (If you really want to read something disturbing, check out this October 2010 article from the Murfreesboro Post about Brandon’s courtroom antics.)

I’m sure there are many good people in Murfreesboro who are embarrassed by the antics of this hopeless band of Islamophobes. The mosque-bashers aren’t going to get anywhere in court, so they ought to pack up their sorry tactics and go home.

Their raw bigotry has no place in the United States, the nation that pioneered religious liberty for all.