Ground zero and beyond: four mosque battles brew across US

3. 'It needs a turning lane' – Murfreesboro, Tenn.

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    Protester Greg Johnson (r.) and counterprotesters Ina Marshall and Tim Foster (l.) argued in front of the Rutherford County Courthouse during a July 14 demonstration against a planned mosque and Islamic community center in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
    Christopher Berkey/AP/file
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Not all the angst in America about mosques is about the religion's terrorist fringe. Opponents of a proposed 52,000 square foot mosque and Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., raised questions about traffic and the environment at a recent Rutherford County Commissioner’s meeting.

“That thing will be about half the size of a Wal-Mart,” says Mike Sparks, a former county commissioner now running for state representative, in an interview with the Monitor. “It will be a dangerous intersection, it needs a turning lane.”

According to local press reports, the Tennessee Department of Transportation will conduct a study of the road to determine if it needs improvement.

The issue of traffic and congestion can sometimes resonate. In March, the Lomita, Calif., City Council turned down a zoning change that would have permitted a new mosque. The council said the mosque would bring in too much traffic to the residential neighborhood.

The same argument has been used against churches, but a federal judge this week ruled that Greenburgh, N.Y., can't use traffic issues to try to block a Pentecostal church from being built. The judge was adamant that the town violated a law banning religious discrimination in land-use decisions by placing unnecessary hurdles on the church.

The judge said the town could be considered liable. The church is asking for $4 million in damages.

In Tennessee, meanwhile, fears that the mosque might train radical jihadists or be linked to terror organizations are not entirely absent from the debate.

Supporters of the right of Muslims to build the mosque maintain government has no right to interfere with religious freedom. And, they say there is no evidence the mosque, which is in a much smaller space now, has been used to train terrorists in the past.

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro did not return phone calls asking for comment.

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