(MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 10/29/2015) – On Monday, November 2, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) will join community leaders at a news conference in Hastings, Minn., to call on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate allegations of anti-Muslim bias in the rejection of a proposed Islamic cemetery in Castle Rock Township.
WHAT: Community Leaders Press Conference on Denial of Islamic Cemetery
WHEN: Monday November 2, 10:30 a.m.
WHERE: Dakota County Judicial Center, 1560 Highway 55, Hastings, MN
CAIR-MN is asking federal authorities to determine whether the denial of land usage for the Islamic cemetery was discriminatory on the basis of religion and questioned whether the denial constitutes a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).
RLUIPA protects religious institutions from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use regulations. RLUIPA and the Minnesota Constitution ban zoning restrictions that impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person or institution unless the government can show that it has a compelling interest for imposing zoning restrictions and that the restriction is the least restrictive way for the government to further that interest.
"We ask the U.S. Department of Justice to use its authority to launch a thorough investigation into the apparently bias-motivated denial of the proposed Islamic cemetery,” said CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein. “It is truly a sad day when Minnesota Muslims are denied their final resting place simply because of their faith.”
On August 11, 2014, the Castle Rock township board rejected the application submitted by the original property owner for a proposed Islamic Cemetery located in Castle Rock Township. The original owner attempted to appeal this denial, but the board took the position that an appeal was not permitted.
SEE: Minutes of August 11, 2014, Board Meeting
The property was later sold to the Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association which proceeded to submit its own, separate application for an Islamic cemetery for the property that it now owned. The Castle Rock Township Board refused to review the cemetery association’s application, taking the position that an application had already been submitted and denied. The cemetery association appealed that decision and the Board denied that appeal.
A cemetery, at the time of the applications, was a permitted use in the zoning area in question and the Castle Rock Planning Commission had recommended that the board approve the conditional use permit with certain conditions. The cemetery association met all of the conditions set by the planning commission.
After the denial of the conditional use permit for the Islamic cemetery, the Castle Rock Township Board changed the zoning ordinance so that cemeteries were no longer a permitted use in the zoning area where the land is located. The public hearing during which it appears that the board removed cemeteries as a conditional use lasted only seven minutes.
SEE: Meeting Minutes
The Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association has also filed a lawsuit in Minnesota State District Court in Dakota County. Summary Judgement motions for this lawsuit are scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, November 3, at the Dakota County Government Center in Hastings.
In Michigan, CAIR recently called on the DOJ to investigate the denial by a planning commission of a conditional use permit for a mosque and community center in Sterling Heights, Mich.
SEE: Sterling Heights Mosque Proposal Rejected: Michigan Officials Deny Group's Planning Commission Application Amid Cheers, Anti-Islam Epithets
SEE ALSO: CAIR-MI Welcomes DOJ Suit Over Zoning Denial for Islamic School
The DOJ has launched an investigation into 28 cases nationwide involving local denials of mosque construction applications.
SEE: Denial of Mosque Applications Spark Federal Government Investigations
A number of recent reports have documented the growth and promotion of Islamophobia nationwide.
CAIR: Legislating Fear
Center for American Progress: Fear, Inc.
Southern Poverty Law Center: Jihad Against Islam
People for the American Way: The Right-Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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