Judge: Troy mosque lawsuit can move forward
A federal judge has denied Troy's request to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a Muslim community group that claims the city was discriminatory when rejecting plans to build an Islamic center there last year.
The order that U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds entered Wednesday allows the nonprofit Adam Community Center's suit against the city and officials to move forward.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter, which is representing the group in the case, welcomed the decision.
"The idea that any city could deny the rights of its citizens to obtain a single place of worship within the city limits goes against the principles on which our nation was founded,” said Amy Dokoure, staff attorney for CAIR-MI, in a statement.
Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.
The case began last November, months after the Troy Zoning Board of Appeals indicated there was no acceptable place in the city left for the Adam group to build a mosque.
The lawsuit alleged that Troy officials purposely and unconstitutionally tried to block the Muslim community from erecting a mosque along Rochester Road, north of Big Beaver, by unfairly and illegally applying zoning ordinances.
The city later filed a motion seeking to dismiss the suit.
Among the arguments, Troy claimed the group needed multiple variances for a business district property and that members failed to prove the city intentionally violated their rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA, of 2000.
“Defendants’ actions have not prevented a redevelopment or an adaptation compliant with the applicable ordinances, or the acquisition of a suitable alternate property in the metro area,” the city attorney wrote in a recent court filing. “RLUIPA is not designed to penalize a municipality because the most desired location for a mosque is not easily attainable.”
In her order Wednesday, Edmunds said the Muslim group presented a strong allegation that city officials “treat similarly situated comparative uses more favorably than mosques.”
“Plaintiff pleads sufficient facts to allege that the individual defendants denied
plaintiff’s variance request and strictly enforced the zoning ordinance for the purpose of
discriminating on account of religion,” she wrote.