Update: August 17, 2011: By a vote of 3-1, the Lilburn city council voted to approve the zoning request of the Dar-e-Abbas congregation. More >>
New York, NY, March 8, 2011 … The Interfaith Coalition on Mosques (ICOM) has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a Muslim congregation in Georgia whose mosque expansion project was unlawfully blocked.
The brief supports the contention of congregation Dar-e-Abbas that the city of Lilburn, Georgia affirmatively prevented the congregation from building a new house of worship, and that it made no effort to accommodate their need to expand.
The Dar-e-Abbas congregation has for eleven years worshiped in a 60-year-old building that is inadequate to serve the religious needs of its parishioners, which number more than 250. In a lawsuit before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the congregation contends that the City of Lilburn blocked its mosque expansion by unlawfully denying permit applications. Further, after learning of the congregation's plan to acquire land adjacent to its existing property to build a new worship center, the city adopted a discriminatory zoning ordinance.
ICOM contended that the rights of the Dar-e-Abbas congregation must be protected according to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). The law safeguards the religious freedom of houses of worship and other religious institutions in the land-use context by requiring courts to apply a strict standard for reviewing laws that substantially burden religious exercise.
According to the brief, "this violation of the Act by the City [of Lilburn] is clear and convincing evidence" of the city's determination to prevent Dar-e-Abbas from building a new facility. Furthermore, that conclusion is "reinforced by the absence of any stated reason for the City's decision to deny the congregation's second rezoning application."
The Interfaith Coalition on Mosques was formed in 2010 to assist Muslim communities confronting opposition to the legal building, expansion or relocation of their mosques. It is comprised of prominent individuals and organizations from different faith traditions – Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Muslim and Jewish.
The case is A.G.A. Islamic Organization, Inc. v. City of Lilburn, Georgia. ICOM's amicus brief was prepared by Emmet J. Bondurant of Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, LLP.