TAMPA, Fla., Oct. 25 (UPI) -- A Florida judge can rely on Islamic law to decide a case involving a local mosque, an appeals court has ruled.
The Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal dismissed without comment a petition to prevent Hillsborough Judge Richard Nielsen from invoking Islamic law, The St. Petersburg Times reported Tuesday.
The Islamic Center of Tampa had filed the petition in March in which it contested Nielsen's decision to use "ecclesiastical Islamic law" in the case.
The Times said the judge restricted his use of Islamic law to a decision on whether arbitration by an Islamic scholar mediating a dispute between the mosque and ousted trustees was in keeping with the teachings of the Koran.
Mosque officials deny the arbitration took place, but the Times said the arbitrator ruled in favor of four men ousted as trustees and that decision could determine control of $2.2 million in mosque funds.
Lee Segal, a lawyer representing the trustees, called the appeals court ruling a "big-time" win for his clients that vindicates Nielsen's decision.
"This basically puts the case back in front of Nielsen, who has a good handle on what the issues are," Segal said.
But Paul Thanasides, a lawyer representing the mosque, said an appeals court ruling without a written opinion means the court didn't address the merits of the case. Thanasides argued Florida law and the U.S. Constitution forbid Nielsen to follow Islamic law and filed a motion Monday asking the judge to dismiss the case because of a lack of jurisdiction.
"Florida law is clear that courts may not decide corporate governance disputes involving religious organizations," the motion said.