(MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 2/1/2016)Â — The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today welcomed a Dakota County District Court judgeâ€™s decision forcing Castle Rock Township to issue a conditional use permit for an Islamic cemetery.Â
Judge David L. Knutson yesterday granted a summary judgement motion to the Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association in which he ruled that the townshipâ€™s decision to deny the conditional use permit (CUP) was â€œarbitrary and capriciousâ€ because the township did not provide any written findings of fact to support its decision.Â Â
[NOTE:Â In October of last year, CAIR-MN asked federal authorities to determine whether the denial of land usage for the Islamic cemetery was discriminatory on the basis of religion and questioned whether the denial constitutes a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).]
“We hoped that a simple request for a proposed Islamic cemetery in Minnesota would not need a court order, however we welcome the courtâ€™s decision to grant theÂ conditionalÂ use permit,â€ said CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein stated. â€œThis ruling sends a strong signal to thoseÂ who would discriminate on the basis of religiousÂ identity.â€Â
The township did not present any evidence to support its contention that allowing the cemetery would result in a loss of taxes for the township. Judge Knutson pointed out that in 2014, only $1,284.76 of the total taxes for the property went to the township and stated: â€œIt is therefore dubious that a decision to deny the CUP application in this case would be rational and reasonable with regard to a loss of tax base.â€ Â Â The Castle Rock Township Board rejected an application submitted by the original property owners for a proposed Islamic cemetery located in Castle Rock Township on August 11, 2014. The original owner attempted to appeal this denial, but the Board took the position that an appeal was impermissible.
The property was later sold to the Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association, which proceeded to submit its own, separate application for an Islamic cemetery for the property it now owned. The Castle Rock Township Board refused to review the Cemetery Associationâ€™s application, taking the position that an application had already been submitted and denied. The cemetery association appealed that decision, and the board denied that appeal.
A cemetery, at the time of the applications, was a permitted use in the zoning area in question and the Castle Rock Planning Commission had recommended that the Board approve the conditional use permit with certain conditions. The Cemetery Association met all of the conditions set by the Planning Commission.
After its denial, the Castle Rock Township Board changed the zoning ordinance so that cemeteries were no longer a conditional use in the zoning area where the land is located. The hearing, where it appears that the Board removed cemeteries as a conditional use, lasted only seven minutes.Â
SEE: Meeting Minutes
CAIRâ€™s Michigan chapter has called for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the denial of a conditional use permit for a mosque and community center in Sterling Heights, Mich.
The DOJ has launched an investigation into 28 cases nationwide involving local denials of mosque construction applications.
Â CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. Â – END – Â CONTACT: CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein, 612-406-0070, E-Mail:Â firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, E-Mail:Â email@example.com