WASHINGTON: The US Department of Justice on Monday backed a project to build a mosque in Tennessee, which local landowners are attempting to block.
The Justice Department’s civil rights division filed an amicus brief in support of Rutherford County in Tennessee, which is being sued by a group of landowners who are opposed to county-approved plans to build a mosque in Murfreesboro.
The brief said that Islam, like all religions, is entitled to protection under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, and Rutherford County was obliged by law to “treat the mosque project as it would other proposals for construction of places of worship.”
”A mosque is quite plainly a place of worship, and the county rightly recognized that it had an obligation to treat mosques the same as churches, synagogues, or any other religious assemblies,” assistant attorney general for civil rights Thomas Perez said.
“This is not only common sense; it is required by federal law,” he said.
The brief was filed weeks after the 10th anniversary of the Religious Land Use or Institutionalized Persons act (RLUIPA), which bars officials from discriminating against religious groups over zoning and land-use applications.
Local landowners went to court last month to try to stop construction of the mosque, claiming county officials had violated state rules on holding open, public meetings when they approved the site plan for the Islamic Center and mosque. -AFP