The Tampa Bay Times reports:
Circuit Judge Richard Nielsen ruled last week that the Constitution barred the court from getting involved in a dispute between the mosque — the Islamic Education Center of Tampa — and several ousted trustees.
The order is something of an about-face for Nielsen, whose earlier ruling that he would use “ecclesiastical Islamic law” to decide an issue in the case triggered national publicity and criticism from some commentators.
In a brief two-page order, Nielsen cited an earlier, precedent-setting ruling by another court in a different case that found “the trial court could not intervene in an internal church governance dispute.”
Quoting that decision, Nielsen wrote that the Constitution “permits hierarchical religious organizations to establish their own rules and regulations for internal discipline and governance, and to create tribunals for adjudicating disputes over these matters.”
Nielsen concluded, “Once such matters are decided by an ecclesiastical tribunal, the civil courts are to accept the decision as binding on them.” …
UPDATE: The judge’s order and the parties’ arguments are here.