"We have a duty to investigate anyone under the banner of Islam," said Allen Jackson, pastor of World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro.
Many of the speakers questioned why the county's Regional Planning Commission approved the site plan for the 52,000-square-foot center south of Murfreesboro without including it in a public notice.
County Planning Director Doug Demosi explained that the site plan for the Islamic center did not require a public hearing because no change in zoning for the property was needed. He said the planning commission's meeting was advertised in advance in a local newspaper.
County Commission members allowed a parade of speakers three minutes each to have their say but did not discuss the matter.
No one spoke on behalf of the mosque during the nearly two-hour public comment portion of the meeting.
"You are beholden to these people here tonight," Murfreesboro resident Kevin Fisher said. "These people have a right. Notice must be posted in order to give citizens a chance to speak.
"These people didn't want this mosque built in this area."
Fisher filed a complaint Thursday with the state against the county planning commission for not giving notice that it was considering the mosque plan.
Fisher wore a tie with the words from John 3:16: "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son." Another man in the crowd wore an orange shirt with "Jesus" on it. A woman wore a shirt with an American flag pattern.
Some of the speakers said they don't trust anyone who practices Islam while others said the county needs to investigate those behind the proposed center. A few speakers said they were afraid their property values would go down or that the impact on traffic needs to be examined.
"I'm not sure why people are afraid of such a community center," said Saleh Sbnaty, an 18-year professor at MTSU who teaches courses in electronics and computers.
The community center will be open to the community and include a pool, gym, school and multipurpose room that will serve as a mosque for praying or wedding services or even sporting events, said Sbnaty, a planning committee member for the Islamic Community Center.
I saw this on ABC News and what the protesters were saying was the equivalent of going to the site and reading the comments. People have already raised enough of a fuss in a nearby community against a similar project that it was dropped. How would these people feel if the building of a church was opposed with the same rabid opposition? Oh, that's right. Christianity is the only religion that's discriminated against