Judge orders use of Islamic law in Tampa lawsuit over mosque leadership
By William R. Levesque, Staff writer of the St. Petersburg Times
TAMPA — The question of what law applies in any Florida courtroom usually comes down to two choices: federal or state.
But not in this case with Hillsborough Circuit Judge Richard Nielsen ..................
"This case," the judge wrote, "will proceed under Ecclesiastical Islamic Law."
Nielsen said he will decide in a lawsuit against a local mosque, the Islamic Education Center of Tampa, whether the parties in the litigation properly followed the teachings of the Koran in obtaining an arbitration decision from an Islamic scholar.
The suit was filed by several men who say they were improperly ousted as trustees in 2002. The dispute may decide who controls $2.2 million the center received from the state after some of its land was used in a road project.
But attorney Paul Thanasides last week appealed Nielson's decision with the 2nd District Court of Appeal, saying religion has no place in a secular court.
His client: the mosque.
"The mosque believes wholeheartedly in the Koran and its teachings," Thanasides said Monday. "They certainly follow Islamic law in connection with their spiritual endeavors. But with respect to secular endeavors, they believe Florida law should apply in Florida courts."
Nielsen, an appointee of Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000 who was subsequently elected, also did not return calls for comment.