Anti-Islamic Activist Dumps $100 K into Tennessee Primary

A new super PAC targeting a Tennessee House primary has raised all its funds from a board member of a local anti-Islamic conservative group who is also the one-time finance chairman of one of the candidates in the race.

Citizens 4 Ethics in Government registered as a super PAC with the Federal Election Commission on July 2. Its first disclosure, filed today, shows that it has raised all of its $105,000 in funds from Andrew Miller, the owner of Nashville-based Healthmark Ventures and a conservative activist who helps lead the anti-Islamic Tennessee Freedom Coalition. The group has spent more than $30,000 so far on the 6th Congressional District primary contest between incumbent Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and tea party activist Lou Ann Zelenik.

Miller worked briefly with Zelenik’s campaign before quitting abruptly, according to Zelinek’s campaign manager Jay Heine. Zelenik, who has made opposition to the building of an Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. a major issue in her campaign, was the executive director of the Coalition before leaving to run for congress.
The Coalition lists opposition to the growth of radical Islam and the promotion of “cultural cohesion” among its goals, among other conservative causes. In April 2011 the group hosted Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders as a speaker; Wilders is known across Europe for his anti-immigration and anti-Islamic politics. He has called for the banning of the Quran and called Islam a totalitarian ideology rather than a religion.

Mosque Bomb Threat Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – A Texas man accused of making terrorist threats against a local mosque has pleaded not guilty.
Javier Alan Correa turned himself in to U.S. Marshals in Nashville for processing on Monday.
David Boling, the spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nashville, said Correa was released on his own recognizance. No future hearings have yet been scheduled. The 23-year-old from Corpus Christi was indicted by a federal grand jury in June. He is accused of threatening to blow up the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
The curse filled message left on a machine at the center said “there’s going to be a bomb in the building.” Correa also is charged with violating the civil rights of mosque members by using a threat of force to interfere with the free exercise of their religious beliefs. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
The mosque has been at the center of a fierce debate since 2010. Opponents recently prevailed in a court case that challenged its construction.

Mosque attacks common nationwide; imam takes incident in stride

JOPLIN, Mo. — One simply has to type the words “mosque fires” into a search engine to determine how common fires like the one Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Joplin mosque are.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have tracked dozens of fires, firebombings and incidents of vandalism at mosques around the country over the past five years.

A few examples:

• A mosque in Queens, N.Y., was firebombed in January with worshippers inside. There were no injuries.

• An arson attack on a Houston, Texas, mosque was reported in May 2011.

• Construction equipment was set afire at the site of a mosque being built in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in August 2010.

• An Oct. 31, 2011, arson fire at a mosque in Wichita, Kan., caused an estimated $120,000 in damage.

• Closer to Joplin, someone in April 2011 burned three copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and left a threatening letter near the entrance of the Islamic Center of Springfield mosque. The anonymous letter claimed that Muslims would “stain the earth” and that Islam wouldn’t survive.

The mosque had earlier been vandalized with graffiti.

An FBI agent last month said there have been positive developments in the Springfield case.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations on Thursday called for state and federal agencies to investigate the Joplin mosque fire as a possible hate crime.

Filmmaker switches sides and now opposes mosque

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An outspoken supporter of a planned mosque that has sparked opposition in Murfreesboro, Tenn., has switched sides and joined the anti-Islam movement.

Eric Allen Bell, a documentary filmmaker, was a fixture at court hearings and protests over the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in 2010. Back then, he was making a movie called “Not Welcome,” which depicted mosque critics as Southern Christian bigots.

Now he says the mosque is part of a plot to destroy America. He claimed the mosque is “built on a foundation of lies” in a recent op-ed piece at the anti-Islam site Jihadwatch.com.

“I want to communicate that the biggest threat to human rights is Islam,” he said in a recent phone interview.

Mosque supporters feel betrayed by Bell. They wonder if he was a fraud or has been paid off by anti-Muslim groups.

“Only a hired gun would switch sides like this,” said Jace Short of the group Middle Tennesseans for Religious Freedom.

Texas Man Is Accused of Threatening Tennessee Mosque

A Texas man was indicted Thursday, accused of threatening to use violence to stop construction of a mosque that for two years has divided the community of Murfreesboro, Tenn., and has become a national barometer of anti-Muslim sentiment. The United States Justice Department said the indictment was an aggressive stance in support of religious freedom and was intended as a warning to people who might resort to violence and other illegal activity to prevent the mosque or any other religious institution to operate.

“What we’re hoping is that this sends a very strong message to any would-be individual who would threaten a mosque or take an action that would result in an individual’s constitutional rights being violated,” United States Attorney Jerry Martin said Thursday afternoon.

A federal grand jury indicted Javier A. Correa, 24, of Corpus Christi, Tex., accusing him of violating the civil rights of members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in connection with a long, threatening message he is said to have left on the center’s phone last September.

The Justice Department has been investigating threats and violence against the Islamic community in Murfreesboro, which is about a half-hour southeast of Nashville, for almost two years. Leaders of the congregation have been building a 12,000-square-foot mosque and community center, hoping to open it before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins at the end of July.

Since the project began, the site has been repeatedly vandalized, construction equipment has been set on fire and residents have tried to block the project in court. The F.B.I. and other federal agencies are investigating a 2010 fire as a possible hate crime.

Claims against Islam blocked so far in lawsuit over proposed mosque in Tennessee

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Plaintiffs in a civil trial trying to block a proposed mosque in Tennessee on procedural grounds were largely blocked Wednesday in trying to raise claims that Islam is not a real religion and that its followers are violent.

The proposed mosque is one of a few Muslim projects in the U.S. that hit a swell of conservative opposition around the same time as the controversy over a plan to build a Muslim community center near New York’s ground zero.

The plaintiffs want to void a May 2010 meeting of the Rutherford County Planning Commission in which it approved the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s site plan. They claim the public was not adequately notified ahead of time.

Because the Islamic Center itself is not named as a defendant, mosque members have not been able to defend themselves against the accusations in court.

Tennessee Republican Rick Womick On Muslims In The Military: ‘We Cannot Trust Them’

MURFREESBORO — Eli Clifton and Lee Fang of Think Progress broke a story on Veteran’s Day concerning Tennessee state representative Rick Womick and his fear of Muslims in the military. Asked whether or not Muslims should be forced out of the military, Womick told Fang, “Absolutely, yeah.”

On Wednesday, Think Progress’ Faiz Shakir discovered video from the “Preserving Freedom Conference,” where Womick told a room of people that, “we cannot have Muslims in our military because we cannot trust them.” Many in the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Republican lawmakers and local officials aren’t rebuking or criticizing GOP state Rep. Rick Womick for saying Muslims shouldn’t be allowed in the U.S. military, but Democrats have strong words for his controversial remarks.

“He’s way over the top,” state Rep. Mike Turner, chairman of the Democratic Party Caucus in the Tennessee House of Representatives, said Friday. “That type of attitude is what’s wrong with America. We have too much hate and too much divisiveness.

“They are playing to people’s fears,” Turner added. “It’s counter-productive to what America stands for, and Rick should be ashamed of himself.”

Womick, R-Rockvale, made the remarks during a recent “Constitution or Shariah?” conference held at Cornerstone Church in the Madison community in northeast Nashville. His comments have made state, national and international news.

Islam (and reason) on trial in Tennessee

Islam is suddenly on trial in a booming Nashville suburb, where opponents of a new mosque have spent six days in court trying to link it to what they claim is a conspiracy to take over America by imposing restrictive religious rule. The current case, unfortunately, is a shame but not a sham. Several residents of Murfreesboro, Tenn., really are challenging the construction of 52,000-square-foot mosque by suing the Rutherford Country planning commission and other county officials.

The plaintiffs argue, among other things, that the county shouldn’t have granted the mosque a religious use permit because, they claim, Islam isn’t really a religion.

The U.S. Justice Department seems to think it’s a bit more than that. The federal government took the unusual action of filing a brief in this county-level case.

“Each branch of the federal government has independently recognized Islam as one of the major religions of the world,” U.S. Atty. Jerry Martin said in a press release.

According to the brief, all of the following authenticated documents have recognized Islam as a major world religion: the Oxford English Dictionary, U.S. Supreme Court rulings, presidential proclamations by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and writings by Thomas Jefferson.

Justice Department Backs Building of Tennessee Mosque

The Obama administration warns local officials that opposing the construction of an Islamic center could infringe the civil rights of its members. The construction site has already been the target of arson damage. For the second time in two months, the Obama administration has interjected itself into a dispute over a proposed Islamic center, warning local officials that opposing the mosque could violate the civil rights of its members.

The Justice Department filed court papers Monday in support of construction of a Murfreesboro, Tenn., mosque, saying local Muslims were protected by the 1st Amendment right to free exercise of religion and disputing opponents’ claims that Islam is not a valid religion.