In a controversial hearing, Norwalks Zoning Commission, on June 6, voted 4-3 to deny Al Madany Islamic Center of Norwalks application for a special use permit to construct a 27,000 square-foot mosque and multi-purpose hall on a 1.5 acre parcel of land located in a residential neighborhood. The Commission provided nine reasons for denying the application, including traffic, the overall size of the development, and the failure to define the alleged accessory use of the multi-purpose hall. (Click here to read the other reasons for denial.)
On June 28, Al Madany sued the Commission in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, alleging violations under RLUIPAs substantial burden and equal protection provisions. Remarkably, the Complaint alleges that discriminatory comments were made by members of the public, not any public officials, through on-line blogs.
Among the discriminatory comments alleged in the Complaint are: Yay, just what the USA needs, another house where they teach to kill those that disagree with their ideology; Why dont the locals just defile the ground with pork products; and Let em build it. Then we burn it.
Anyone with internet access can put up anything. This was posted in response to an article about the case:
These Muslims have become so American suing for some ridiculous case, when they could care less their proposal would ruin a neighborhood and cause serious danger to peoples lives. I bet they have a good Jewish lawyer.
When such statements are made in a public forum, local officials may wish to take corrective action, as noted in this article, such as having the chairperson immediately renounce any discriminatory statements and inform all that such statements are contrary to local government policies of inclusiveness and objectivity and will not be tolerated.
Such comments by the public, although irrelevant as to governmental liability, may taint the public debate. Of course, nearly everyone finds them reprehensible. When the discussion in Norwalk turned to religion, the chairman reminded everyone that this was not an application about religion but rather, that it was strictly a zoning application. While the publics discriminatory comments likely will be disregarded as they should be, we will keep track of this case and report back.