Islam Still a Religion, Tennessee Judge Rules

| Thu Nov. 18, 2010 2:18 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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At first, Brandon seemed devastated by the decision—as you'd expect from a man who believes that he and his family are mere months away from being subjected to an extreme (and largely fictitious) version of sharia law. As the Tennessean relayed, "Brandon had his hands on his face and at times was bent over the desk during the judge's ruling." A few hours later, though, he seemed to have cheered up, and by the time he spoke to the Murfreesboro Daily News-Journal, he was declaring victory:

"Upon further reflection, [the ruling] was actually a gift. Had the chancellor granted the temporary restraining order, he would have sent it back to the regional planning commission, where we would be in worse shape than we are."

County officials argued that a massive international terrorism investigation (such as it were) might be a job for, well, anyone other than the Rutherford County planning committee. But Brandon has no time for buck-passing: he's already announced his intention to conduct depositions with members of the mosque's congregation under oath. In other words, this story might be sticking around for a little while longer. That might not make much legal sense, but from a financial standpoint, it's a no-brainer: there's plenty of money to be made peddling Islamophobia.