Troy facing federal lawsuit alleging city denied right to build mosque

Posted at 12:01 PM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 19:27:07-04

TROY, Mich. (WXYZ) — The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the City of Troy for denying zoning approval to a Muslim group seeking to establish a place of worship.

“Zoning laws that treat mosques, churches, synagogues, and other religious assemblies less favorably than nonreligious assemblies illegally restrict religious exercise in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in a news release. “The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that local governments do not discriminate against faith communities in violation of federal law.”

RELATED: Lawsuit filed against Troy after denial of Mosque

The complaint alleges that in 2018, Troy denied zoning approval to Adam Community Center, an organization of Muslims who live and work in Troy, to operate a place of worship.

The Center acquired a building in one of the city's commercial districts to use as a community center and place of worship. The city's zoning laws allow a nonreligious place of assembly to use the same building without further approval, but because of zoning restrictions on places of worship, the Center had to seek city approval to use the building.

In June 2018, the city denied the Center's application. The complain alleges that the city's denial, and its alleged unequal treatment of all places of worship in the city compared to nonreligious uses, violate a provision of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

RLUIPA is a federal law designed to protect religious institutions from discriminatory land use regulations.