In December, we reported that Kennesaw, Georgia’s City Council reversed its initial decision to deny an Islamic place of worship and education center in a retail shopping plaza. Despite the approval, the applicant, Suffa Dawat Center at Kennesaw (the “Center”) filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Georgia, Suffa Dawat Center v. City of Kennesaw, Case No. 1:14-cv-04110 (N.D. GA 2014). The complaint is available here.
The lawsuit was filed to protect the Center’s right to challenge the City’s initial denial if the approval is challenged and invalidated. The lawyer for the Center, Doug Dillard, explained to one news source, “If the opposition to the mosque filed a lawsuit and for some reason the vote that [the City Council] took on December 15 was declared and void, then all we’ve got to fall back on is their actions on Dec. 1.” According to Dillard, there is still a possibility that the approval may be challenged within 30 days of the Council’s December 15 decision.
Also according to Dillard, the Center is moving full speed ahead to obtain all other necessary permits and approvals to modify the 2,200-square-foot suite in a shopping center as an Islamic prayer and education facility. “If the 30-day appeal period goes by and there is no appeal, we can always dismiss the lawsuit, but we had to file it as a preventative measure just in case someone challenged the December 15 action,” Dillard said.
The complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as attorneys’ fees for claimed violations of the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), and state law. The Center claims that the City violated RLUIPA’s substantial burden, equal terms, nondiscrimination, and limitations and exclusions provisions.