Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Islam Still a Religion, Tennessee Judge Rules

| Thu Nov. 18, 2010 3:18 PM EST

Wednesday was judgment day in the Tennessee legal battle over a proposed Islamic community center in Murfreesboro. As I've noted before, the trial had been something of a circus, with the plaintiff's attorney, Joe Brandon Jr., asking local officials their views on pedophilia and spousal abuse, and warning that area Muslims are planning to, essentially, transform Middle Tennessee into Helmand Province. Here's his characteristically passionate closing argument:

"If this has been a circus, it's because they pitched a tent and brought the clowns," Brandon said. Brandon warned the court if they did not step in and stop the mosque that we might have another Waco on our hands. "Look at David Koresh. He had a religious institution until the government decided to load up their missile and blowed it up and killed everybody."

Terrifying. But also, ultimately, unpersuasive: after three months of testimony, chancellor Robert Corlew ruled that construction of the mosque could continue as planned, and that the city had acted properly in approving the project in the first place. Mischief managed! Or maybe not.

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The Best Argument You'll See All Day (Sharia edition)

| Mon Nov. 15, 2010 5:24 PM EST

Not this Islam. Simon Fernandez/FlickrNot this Islam. Simon Fernandez/FlickrIt's easy to forget, what with the killer grizzlies and the guardian porpoises and the election and all, that Islam is currently on trial in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Actually, it's been on trial since September. Looking to block construction of an Islamic community center, local activists took the issue to court, alleging that the mosque is not protected by the First Amendment, because Islam is not a religion*. It's an ingenious (and expensive) tactic. But will it work?

With arguments set to wrap up this week, things have gone pretty much as you'd expect. The federal government has stepped in to say that, yes, Islam is a religion and a pretty big one at that. City authorities have testified that, yes, Muslims do have a right to build their community center in Murfreesboro, but that if anyone tries to impose Sharia in Middle Tennessee, they'll be on it. And the plaintiffs, as the AP notes, have taken full advantage of their platform to sound the alarm of impending doom. Sometimes that means paying witnesses to read printouts they found on the Internet; sometimes that means exchanges like this:

"Do you remember Jim Jones who killed all those people who drank the Kool-Aid," Brandon asked Burgess. "Is that what's going on with the [Islamic Center of Murfreesboro]?" Brandon also asked each commissioner if they believed in tenets of Sharia law that plaintiffs claim ICM members will institute in Murfreesboro. "Do you believe in having sex with children," Brandon asked Farley to the gasps of the audience and a quickly sustained objection that the court was degrading into a circus.

The Fierce Urgency of Sows

| Wed Nov. 10, 2010 7:00 AM EST

When we last heard from Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association's issues director was calling for the public stoning of Tillikum the killer whale, for its role in the death of a trainer at Sea World last spring. "When an ox gores a man or woman to death," Fischer declared, quoting Exodus, "the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten."

The whale was not stoned (in fairness, it wasn't eaten, either) but Fischer seems undeterred in his assault on charismatic megafauna. Here he is yesterday, reacting to a Los Angeles Times article about Wyoming's threatened grizzlies:

One human being is worth more than an infinite number of grizzly bears. Another way to put it is that there is no number of live grizzlies worth one dead human being. If it's a choice between grizzlies and humans, the grizzlies have to go. And it's time.

It's hardly an isolated incident; earlier this year, Fischer called the grizzly, "a fierce, savage unstoppable killing machine." This time, he's offered a solution: "Shoot these man-eaters on sight."

Texas Rep. Introduces "Arizona-Style" Immigration Law

| Tue Nov. 9, 2010 7:00 AM EST

How excited are Texas Republicans to file their own Arizona-style immigration reform? This excited:

[State Rep. Debbie] Riddle set up some folding chairs and pitched a make-shift campsite outside the floor of the Texas House of Representatives beginning on Saturday afternoon to make sure she was the first in line when the chief clerk's office opened for early filing this morning. She spent both Saturday and Sunday night sleeping on the lobby floor.

"A visitor that walked by told me that I reminded them of the kids that camp out for Duke basketball tickets in Durham, North Carolina," Riddle said. "It was eye-opening to realize that people think it's normal to be passionate about something like college basketball, but odd to be passionate about your state's politics."

Hook 'em. The main prize, as Riddle brags on her website, was HB 17, which more or less parrots Arizona's SB 1070, allowing police to check the immigration status of anyone they pull over for a traffic stop. Another proposed bill requires parents of public school children to provide proof of citizenship (pdf) and/or immigration status, which would then be forked over to the state, as part of an effort to "identify and analyze any impact on the standard or quality of education" from illegal immigration. Yet another bill seeks to crack down on "sanctuary cities." Riddle, who made a name for herself as the Paul Revere of the "terror baby" menace, also introduced two bills (one that would increase the penalty for driving without a license, and one requiring valid ID in order to vote) that took on immmigration indirectly.

As I noted last month, it's no sure thing that immigration reform will pass in the Lone State State, where the party's biggest donors would prefer to see inaction. But after a landslide election (GOPers gained 44 seats in the Texas house) and with the base so fired up its leaders are literally squatting on the floors of the legislature, don't expect conservatives to back down so easily.

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