This news is not totally unexpected, the property owners and their lawyer had hinted that a lawsuit might be brought against the rural town of Walkersville, MD when it had earlier ruled against a special exemption request that would have allowed a large Muslim complex to be built in the town. For background see my post of June 10th and then follow links back for the full story.
From the AP today:
WALKERSVILLE, Md. – Officials of a rural Maryland town illegally discriminated against a Muslim group by barring them from building a mosque and holding annual conventions on land zoned for farming, the property’s owner claimed in a federal lawsuit filed Monday.
The complaint was filed not by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA but by developer David Moxley and his father Robert, who had planned to sell the group 224 acres in Walkersville for about $6 million.
The Silver Spring-based religious group canceled the land purchase earlier this year after the town’s three-member Board of Zoning Appeals voted unanimously to reject their request for a special exception to land-use restrictions.
Officials of the town of 5,600 based their denial largely on open space preservation concerns and fears that the thousands of people attending the group’s annual, three-day Jalsa Salana national convention would overwhelm the community’s roads and emergency services.
Think about this next section of the article and the implications of the law that is being used in this suit. This means, I guess, that no town or jurisdiction could say no to a large or otherwise incompatible religious facility when considering its zoning decisions.
The complaint alleges violations of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees free exercise of religion, and the 14th Amendment, which provides equal protection to all.
It alleges violations of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, enacted in 2000 to bar land-use regulations that would discriminate against a religious organization.
I spent years working in the property rights movement in this country and it was no secret that the federal government was seeking (spurred on by environmentalists) to control land use at a federal level and take it away from local governments. But, here you have the tables turned on the environmentalists because local citizens who are concerned about the quality of their environment could have a large and potentially environmentally destructive facility shoved down their throats in the name of religious freedom.
Can you imagine what fun this case could be on a Supreme Court level. Would liberal environmental groups side with local government (opposing the feds) against immigrant groups wishing to build large religious facilities on open space?
By the way, I am not a lawyer, nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, so the above speculation is just that!
For more go to Citizens for Walkersville here.