GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE BILL HASLAM
The Republican gubernatorial nominee and Knoxville mayor is walking a fine line in his statements on the Murfreesboro mosque controversy.
"Two of the things that define who we are as Americans is the freedom to worship and our the ability to live with our deepest differences. ... As a Christian who takes my faith very seriously, I will fight hard to protect my right to worship in the way that I want to, but I'll also fight hard to protect your right to disagree with me as long as it's within constitutional and local laws."
GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE MIKE MCWHERTER
The Democrat in the gubernatorial race and son of a former governor called it a local issue.
"I think those people (who set fire to equipment at the mosque site) should be hunted down and frankly prosecuted to fullest extent. ... Ladies and gentlemen, that's why you're all here. That's what brought your ancestors, brought you here. ... But the bottom line on what's happening in Murfreesboro is ... it's a local zoning issue, and I support that process."
STATE SEN. DIANE BLACK
Black, the Republican nominee for the 6th Congressional District seat, waded into the Murfreesboro mosque controversy by warning about "violent" tendencies in Islam.
"I'm very concerned that violent jihadism is becoming the norm, not the exception, in too much of Islam today, and American communities have a right to be vigilant in ensuring that Islamic institutions in this country do not aid the jihadist viewpoint," Black told reporters
METRO NASHVILLE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER KAREN JOHNSON
Johnson launched a petition drive asking sellers of an Antioch movie theater to sell to Nashville State Community College instead of the Islamic Center of Tennessee. It was not, she was hasty to insist, because she has anything against Muslims, but because she wanted Nashville State to build a campus annex at the site instead.Although Johnson insisted the proposed mosque site was the only possible place the college could expand in south Davidson County, campus officials went on the record to say that they were looking at multiple sites. Antioch did not have to choose between a place of worship and a place of study.
LT. GOV. RON RAMSEY
Tennessee's lieutenant governor made national headlines during his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign by suggesting that Islam might be a cult and that Muslims might not qualify for constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom.
Ramsey, who said he is "all about freedom of religion" nevertheless suggested that Islam might not count as a religion.
"Now you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, a way of life or cult, whatever you want to call it? We do protect our religions, but at the same time, this is something that we are going to have to face."
CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE BEN LEMMING
The Democratic congressional candidate was one of the only politicians in the state to step forward with a flat statement of support for the Murfreesboro mosque.
"The Americans that want to build this mosque are already our neighbors," said Leming, a former Marine and Iraq veteran. "They live next to us and they are a part of our community. They are not the enemy."
U.S. ATTORNEY JERRY E. MARTIN
The U.S. attorney made an effort last week to settle the "Islam: Religion or Cult?" debate once and for all.
"All three branches of government have repeatedly recognized Islam as a religion," Martin said Monday during an afternoon press conference. "Presidents, as far back as Lincoln and Jefferson and as recent as President George W. Bush, have, indeed, publicly recognized Islam as one of the world's largest religions."
RUTHERFORD COUNTY MAYOR ERNEST BURGESS
Burgess doggedly moved ahead with the approval process for the Murfreesboro mosque, despite controversies, protests and even lawsuits filed by opponents of the projects.
When televangelist Pat Robertson went on the air and grimly suggested that the mosque project was an attempt to gain political influence in the county, Burgess simply scoffed, saying the allegations "were so ridiculous they do not deserve a response."
FORMER CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE LOU ANN ZELENIK
Zelenik, former chairwoman of the Rutherford County Republican Party, made opposition to the Murfreesboro mosque — and to Islam itself — one of the themes of her unsuccessful congressional campaign.
"This 'Islamic Center' is not part of a religious movement," she said. "It is a political movement designed to fracture the moral and political foundation of Middle Tennessee."
The mosque, she insisted, should be blocked to protect the nation's "Judeo-Christian tradition."Moreover, she said, the United States is not obligated to open its society to American Muslims until they "find it in their hearts to separate themselves from their evil, radical counterparts."