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First Amendment

U.S. Attorney Defends Islam in Lawsuit Challenging Tennessee Mosque Permit

Posted Oct 19, 2010 6:27 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Attorney in Nashville has filed a brief defending Islam as a religion in a dispute over a Tennessee mosque.

U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin said in a press conference on Monday that he would not sit by while mosque opponents contend Islam is a political system rather than a religion, the Tennessean and the Associated Press report.

Martin says the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act in 2000 bars governments from using land use regulations to unfairly prevent worship. His brief asks a Rutherford County court to declare that Islam is a religion entitled to protection under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.

"Plaintiffs' implication that Islam is not a recognized religion by the United States is wrong and is not supported by any authority whatsoever," Martin said. "The right to assemble and worship as you please was literally the genesis of this country."

Opponents claim the county violated open meetings law and failed to consider whether Islam was entitled to First Amendment protection when it granted a construction permit to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "New York City Bar Supports Right of Mosque to Locate Near Ground Zero"

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