Religious Freedom: Town Refuses Mosque Zoning Permit; Gets Sued By DOJ

In 2012, a small town in Minnesota denied a zoning permit that would have allowed the use of a building as a mosque. The members of the Abu Harairi Islamic Center felt they'd been victims of discrimination, and that if, rather than a mosque, the application had been for a place of worship for another religion, it would not have been denied.

According to KARE-11, the group found a building that was suitable for their mosque, and decided to use part of it for prayer while renting other portions to business owners. The leaders were led to believe this would be allowed, and that they would simply have to apply for a conditional use permit since the area was labeled 'light industrial.'

However, after the mosque's zoning permit application was submitted, and while it was pending, the city staff decided on a change in zoning laws that would forbid religious uses of building in light industrial zones -- and they denied the mosque permit. The law was not passed until nearly a year after the mosque was turned down.

According to Fox 9, the city attorney Jay Lindgren maintains that there was no discrimination, and that the same would have applied to mosque, synagogue, temple, or church.

The Department of Justice, however, has taken the side of the Islamic group in the matter, and is suing the city for violating religious freedom. According to KARE-11, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger spoke on the matter Wednesday, saying,

An injustice has been done, and it is my job as the united states attorney to enforce the constitution and protect the civil rights of all members of our community, including Abu Huraira.
The Department of Justice seeks to reverse the decision of the city council, permitting the Islamic group to begin holding worship services in their mosque as soon as possible.

It's not the first mosque controversy this year, either. Back in April, Inquisitr reported about the possible destruction of the so-called 'ground zero mosque,' which was placed in a building near the destroyed World Trade Center in New York. That mosque, too, was built under protest, with detractors claiming the mosque was a mockery of those who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Now, the developer plans to replace the mosque with a larger building that will include a museum of Islam, as well as prayer space.

As for the Minnesota mosque, if the zoning permit is issued, prayer services will take place in the basement, while the upstairs portions are leased to businesses.

[photo credit: Rudy Herman via photopin cc]