Religious Law

Fla. Appeals Court Refuses to Bar Judge from Considering Islamic Law in Mosque Dispute

Lawyers disagree on the impact of a Florida appeals court’s refusal to block a Hillsborough judge from using Islamic law in a dispute involving a mosque.

The appellate court in Lakeland denied a petition without comment that had sought to block Judge Richard Nielsen from referring to Islamic law, report the Tampa Tribune, the St. Petersburg Times and Fox News.

Nielsen drew the ire of conservatives when he said in March that he intended to use Islamic law to decide whether an Islamic scholar mediating a dispute followed the Koran, according to the St. Petersburg Times. The disagreement between the mosque and ousted trustees involves control of more than $2 million of mosque funds acquired when the state paid for land to widen a highway, the Tampa Tribune says.

The lawyer for four ousted trustees, Lee Segal, says Nielsen merely ruled the litigants were bound to follow Islamic law because of their agreement before trial, the Tampa Tribune says. Segal calls the appellate action a “big time win” for his clients, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

The mosque’s lawyer, Paul Thanasides, emphasizes there was no ruling on the merits. He has filed a motion contending that the courts have no jurisdiction to decide a dispute about a religious group’s corporate governance.

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