Would the feds be suing the city of St. Anthony if it had rejected a church funded by a foreign government that was ostensibly an ally but that had spent billions to fund enemies of the U.S., and that taught that ultimately the Constitution would have to be replaced with a theocracy? I expect that in such a case, the feds would be suing the church, not the city that turned it down.
The Muslim advocacy group CAIR asked the U.S. Department of Justice on to investigate allegations of anti-Muslim bias in the rejection of the proposed Abu-Huraira Islamic Center, planned for the basement of the former Medtronic headquarters.
The U.S. Department of Justice has launched investigations into 28 cases nationwide of local denials of new mosques, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In the case of St. Anthony, CAIR is asking federal authorities to determine whether the denial constitutes a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which “protects religious institutions from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land-use regulations.”
The United States Attorney’s Office is filing a lawsuit against the city of St. Anthony Village, Minn., for denying the local Muslim group Abu Huraira a conditional use permit for an Islamic center. At the prodding of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Department of Justice launched an investigation into the matter in October 2012.
“Let me be clear, an injustice has been done,” U.S. Attorney Anthony Luger said.
The St. Anthony City Council met with its attorney behind closed doors on Aug. 18 to discuss the threat of litigation. Mayor Jerry Faust said the city turned over documentation on the matter to federal authorities more than a year ago.
“They’ve taken a lot of records of ours. I am sure that’s what it’s about,” Faust said. “We have to give them all of our e-mails.”
The U.S. attorney’s office in Minneapolis has spent two years investigating the matter, with its spokeswoman saying at one point they had sought to reach an out-of-court agreement with the parties.
In June 2012, the St. Anthony City Council voted down the proposed Abu Huraira Islamic Center, concluding that a religious and cultural center was incompatible with the site’s light-industrial zoning. The council’s 4-1 decision went against a city planning commission recommendation to approve the 15,000-square-foot center in the old Medtronic headquarters at 3055 Old Highway 8.
The council decision came after some St. Anthony residents voiced their opposition to the proposed center. More than 150 people packed the meeting, and some made disparaging remarks about the Muslim faith.
Council Member Hal Gray, who voted against the center, said other houses of worship have asked to locate in similar light industrial zones. He believes the city should keep those areas open for businesses, not religious groups. When the Islamic center was proposed, he and other city leaders thought it necessary to reevaluate the zoning code, he said.
“The industrial zone is set up for business, manufacturing, things like that,” he said. “We have a very small area in St. Anthony set aside for industrial. So the more we take out of that, the less there is for economic development, jobs, et cetera.”
The question remains, would the feds be suing the city of St. Anthony if it had rejected a church? I think not.
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