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May 30, 2012

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thumbnail Tennessee mosque work continues after judge voids building permit
May 30th 2012, 17:57

Mark Humphrey / AP

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is under construction in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

By WSMV's Larry Fowler and's Jim Gold

Construction work continued on a Murfreesboro, Tenn., mosque Wednesday despite a judge’s ruling a day earlier voiding building permits for the controversial project.

Chancellor Robert Corlew III of the 16th District Chancery Court ruled that construction must cease because not enough notice was given about a May 24, 2010, public meeting in which Rutherford County planning commissioners approved the site plan for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

Corlew ruled in favor of Kevin Fisher and other Rutherford County residents who sued the Planning Commission. The mosque is free to reapply for permits, he said.

"It's a good day for the plaintiffs; I'm very pleased with the outcome," plaintiff Henry Golcyznky said, adding he was somewhat surprised Corlew ruled in the plaintiffs' favor.

"There should have been public notice. People should have been allowed to come in and express or at least understand what was going on," Golcyznky said.

See the original story at NBC station WSMV of Nashville, Tenn.

A public notice about the 2010 Planning Commission meeting, in which no public hearing was required over the mosque’s site plan, was published in the twice-weekly Murfreesboro Post, which has a contract to handle Rutherford County’s legal advertising. 

Islamic Center members said they hoped to complete the first phase of the mosque by Ramadan, a month-long Muslim holiday beginning this year on July 20, based on the Islamic lunar calendar.

"This decision comes at a crucial time, because we were at a point about to celebrate the opening of our center. which we were hoping to happen, probably within two to three months. It's a sad day in our community," said mosque member Saleh Sbenaty.

Construction of the $2 million, 52,000-square-foot mosque is well under way, with the first phase, a 12,000-square-foot building, nearly complete.

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The mosque was not a party in the lawsuit.

Mosque officials have not announced their plans about reapplying, but said work would go on. A construction crew was at the mosque site Wednesday.

"The county is reviewing its options going forward,” said county attorney Jim Cope. “There are a number of issues and items to consider, and those will be discussed with the appropriate county officials in the days ahead to make a determination."

The judge's ruling drew nationwide attention.

Council on American-Islamic Relations called for the Department of Justice to intervene in the case if the county doesn't issue new building permits to "protect the religious rights of Tennessee Muslims."

CAIR said the judge’s ruling “used phrases and reasoning which could be viewed as indicating that a higher degree of public notice is required for issues related to Tennessee Muslims.”

"American Muslim constitutional rights should not be diminished merely because anti-Muslim bigots are able to manufacture a controversy about what would otherwise be normal religious activities," said CAIR attorney Gadeir Abbas.

"If the Rutherford County Planning Commission does not immediately issue new permits for the mosque, we urge the Department of Justice to intervene in this case to support the religious rights of Tennessee Muslims."

Mosque opponents have fought construction for two years, arguing that Islam is not a real religion deserving of First Amendment protections and that the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has terrorist ties.

“You have the issue that this is not a religious organization," plaintiffs' attorney Joe Brandon said. "This is a Sharia-compliant training organization, nothing more and nothing less."

The judge dismissed those allegations but held the trial on the narrower claim that the public meeting law was violated.

Larry Fowler is a reporter at NBC station WSMV of Nashville, Tenn.

Follow Jim Gold at on Facebook here.

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120530-mosque-1030a.photoblog400.jpg (image/jpeg)
thumbnail Sandusky judge denies legal team's attempt to delay case
May 30th 2012, 17:31

By staff and wires

Pat Little / Reuters

Jerry Sandusky arrives for a hearing at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., on April 5.

The trial of Jerry Sandusky will begin next week in Pennsylvania as scheduled, the presiding judge ruled Wednesday, denying a request for a delay by lawyers for the former Penn State assistant football coach.

"The reality of our system of justice is that no date for trial is ever perfect, but some dates are better than others," wrote Judge John Cleland ahead of a pre-trial hearing Wednesday afternoon to take care of any remaining matters.

Sandusky's lawyers and state prosecutors will begin picking jurors from a pool of State College-area residents on Tuesday. 

Sandusky is charged with 52 counts of child sexual abuse. The 68-year-old former defensive coordinator for Penn State's famed football program denies the allegations. 

Still unresolved are a defense effort to have the charges dismissed and motions by four alleged victims to have their identities protected by court order.

Cleland also issued a decorum order to address issues raised by the widespread public interest the case has generated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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thumbnail 'D-i-r-i-g-i-b-l-e': 6-year-old nails her first word at National Spelling Bee
May 30th 2012, 17:30

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Lori Anne Madison, 6, of Woodbridge, Va., takes her seat as the youngest speller in the National Spelling Bee, before competing in the Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

By staff and NBC News

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- "W-i-t-t-i-c-i-s-m." And with that word, correctly spelled by Kevin Lazenby, 13, of Opelika, Ala., the 85th National Spelling Bee got under way on Wednesday morning.

Each of the 278 participants spells two words during the day's preliminary rounds, and their scores will be combined with their scores from a 50-word computer test they took Tuesday to determine the field of no more than 50 semifinalists, The Associated Press reported. You can follow along with the day's rounds here.


Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Lori Anne Madison spells a word correctly during the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday in National Harbor, Md.

This year's contest includes the bee's youngest speller ever: 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison of Lake Ridge, Va. Lori Anne, speller No. 269, correctly spelled "dirigible" during her turn just before noon Wednesday. The Washington Post reported that she asked for a definition, got the word right and quickly took her seat. 

She's a home-schooled student who loves swimming, math and the outdoors -- and says she wants to be an astrobiologist.

"She loves it and she does it because it's a passion, and we never push her into anything and want her to make her own choices," her mother, Sorina Madison, told The Associated Press.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP file

Lori Anne Madison, 6, of Lake Ridge, Va., walks through river water while playing with friends in a park in McLean, Va., on May 11.

NBC News’ Ellie Hall contributed to this report.

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