Newton County, Georgia has imposed a moratorium on religious uses following the planned construction of a mosque and cemetery. The Al Maad Al Islami Inc., a Doraville mosque, purchased 135 acres at the corner of 162 and County Line Road Road in June of 2015, and obtained an administrative use permit to construct the mosque and cemetery. When Al Maad’s engineers met with Newton County staff about moving forward with the construction, word spread quickly. Although Al Maad did not submit any plans or apply for a building permit, the County’s Board of Commissioners imposed a moratorium on religious uses. Reportedly, the moratorium was meant to give the County time to study and update its regulations regarding “campus-like” places of worship that include schools, residences, and other facilities.
Nearly 300 residents packed the Commissioners’ meeting, most of whom were opposed to the planned mosque and cemetery. Opponents have created a “STOP the Mosque Newton County Ga.” Facebook page that has more than 1,000 “likes.” The County Commissioner who represents the area has stated: “Would building those things make us a prime area for the federal government to resettle refugees from the Middle East? So I do have some concerns, like the people who live down here.” One person said: “To say we wish to disallow this project based on religious discrimination is ludicrous and hypocritical.” This same person then added: “They are discriminating against us by calling us infidels who do not believe in their religion.”
The County’s attorney said the County would be careful not to avoid RLUIPA or other constitutional protections. Now, the County plans to lift the moratorium on September 13. The County Manager stated that the County “pledge[s] to work collaboratively with the Applicant throughout the review process to ensure the project meets federal and state requirements and follows local ordinances and laws. Once plans are approved, the County can issue permits and construction begins.”