(CBS Detroit) -- A federal judge ruled against the city of Troy, finding that the city's zoning practices treat places of worship worst than nonreligious assemblies.
The judge also found the city's zoning "denial substantially burdened the religious exercise of a Muslim group seeking to establish the only permanent place of Islamic worship in the City of Troy."
The decision comes after the Justice Department filed a lawsuit in 2019 after the city denied zoning approval to Adam Community Center, which is an organization of Muslims who live and work in Troy, to operate as a place of worship.
Officials said the organization acquired a building in one of Troy's commercial districts in 2018. The zoning ordinance allows a nonreligious establishment such as a theater or banquet hall to use the same building without further approval.
However, because of the city's zoning restrictions unique to places of worship, the organization had to seek the city's approval to operate in the building. Troy's zoning ordinance board denied the organization's application in June 2018, prompting the Justice Department to investigate and file a suit.
In his ruling, the judge quoted the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), saying "RLUIPA was enacted to protect assemblies like Adam from discrimination in zoning laws that 'lurks behind such vague and universally applicable reasons as traffic, aesthetics, or 'not consistent with the city's land use plan."
The judge also said the city has "…no compelling governmental interest in prohibiting Adam, a religious place of assembly, from operating from the Property."
"I am very pleased that the Court recognized Troy's unequal treatment of places of worship and the impact on Troy's Muslim community," said U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison. "My office always seeks to work cooperatively with local governments to resolve civil rights disputes. However, when that is not possible, we will not hesitate to prosecute those cases."
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