In its latest effort to protect Muslim rights in the United States the Obama Justice Department is suing an Illinois town for denying a rezoning application to convert an office building into an Islamic temple.
Failing to approve plans for the Islamic worship center violates a 2000 law known as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit filed this week in federal court. The accused are lawmakers in Des Plaines, a Chicago suburb with a population of about 60,000. In 2013 the Des Plaines City Council voted 5-3 to reject a rezoning request made by the American Islamic Center (AIC) to make a vacant office building in a manufacturing zone to an institutional zone that would allow a worship center.
The plan called for 3,661 square feet of worship space that would be used for prayer services on Fridays and Sundays as well as nightly prayers during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast and commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. The new temple would also be used for youth group events and other gatherings, according the rezoning application. In nixing the plan, Des Plaines aldermen expressed concern about the loss of tax revenue since religious institutions are nonprofits that don’t pay taxes. They also cited traffic and safety issues for voting against the project.
In its lawsuit the DOJ dismisses those issues and claims that the city’s “treatment and denial of AICs rezoning requests constitutes the imposition or implementation of a land use regulation that imposes a substantial burden on AICs religious exercise.” Denying a city zoning change to accommodate a Muslim temple also discriminates against the Islamic group on the basis of religion, according to the feds. Attorney General Loretta Lynch wants the court to issue an order forcing Des Plaines to let AIC construct its worship center in the city.
“The ability to establish a place for collective worship is a fundamental protection of the First Amendment and our civil rights laws,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the DOJ’s bloated civil rights division, in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “The Justice Department will remain vigilant in its mission to ensure that all religious groups enjoy the right to practice their faiths freely.” The federal prosecutor handling the case in Illinois said “the freedom to practice the religion of one’s choosing is a precious right in our country” and the DOJ will continue to “enforce the laws that protect this important right.”
The DOJ’s enthusiasm for protecting Muslim rights is in a class of its own, however. Back in 2010 Obama’s first Attorney General, Eric Holder, personally reassured Muslims of DOJ protection during an address at a San Francisco-based organization (Muslim Advocates) that urges members not to cooperate in federal terrorism investigations. It was a first for the nation’s top federal prosecutor to publicly condone illegal behavior. A few years later the DOJ warnedagainst using social media to spread information considered inflammatory against Muslims and threatened that it could constitute a violation of civil rights.
One of the biggest and most unbelievable moves by the DOJ came in 2012 when it issued a broad order changing the way the U.S. government trains federal agents to combat terrorism and violent extremism by eliminating all materials that shed a negative light on Muslims. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) actually destroyed instructional material that characterized Muslims as prone to violence or terrorism and hundreds of pages from the 9/11 attacks were purged because they were considered offensive to Muslims under the new initiative. In 2013 Judicial Watch published an in-depth report documenting and analyzing Islamist active measures and influence operations targeting anti-terrorism training in the U.S.