Watch CBS News

Muslim advocacy group sues Michigan township over alleged denial of zoning request for mosque

Parents in Detroit-area school district upset after former Oxford principal hired and more stories
Parents in Detroit-area school district upset after former Oxford principal hired and more stories 04:00

(CBS DETROIT) - A Washtenaw County township is being sued for allegedly violating federal law by denying a zoning request for a place of worship for Muslim residents, according to the lawsuit. 

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also known as CAIR-MI, filed the lawsuit against Lodi Township, its board of trustees and its planning commission on Thursday. 

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Masjid Al-Farook, a nonprofit in Ann Arbor. 

CAIR says that Lodi Township currently doesn't have a place of worship for Muslims, so in 2021, Masjid Al-Farook filed an application to rezone on Ellesworth Road for the development of a mosque. 

The township's planning commission allegedly denied the request, and its board of trustees has indicated that no action is planned on this request. 

The lawsuit alleges Lodi Township has been operating a zoning scheme since 2019. The township allegedly has zoned out religious places of worship, and there is only one zoning district where they can be. The plan allegedly doesn't set aside any land for zoning, though. 

"Lodi Township's current zoning ordinance makes it impossible for any new place of worship to be developed within the township, which is an abject violation of RLUIPA and the U.S. Constitution," said CAIR-MI Staff Attorney Amy Doukoure. "Despite being on notice since at least 2021 that their zoning scheme likely violated Masjid Al-Farook's constitutional and legal rights, the Township has voted to deny their request for rezoning and took no action to review their zoning ordinance until Masjid Al-Farook demanded that they finally take action. Despite the time that has elapsed since the original request for rezoning has been filed, the Township has been unable to rectify their zoning ordinance and bring it in compliance with their obligations under the U.S. Constitution and federal law."

The lawsuit alleges these zoning practices Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the 1st and 14th Amendments.

CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid says that this is the third lawsuit that the advocacy group has filed on behalf of Muslim communities over the denial of zoning requests for mosques. 

"Lodi Township, like the many other municipalities, has taken the route of restricting development and expansions of religious institutions for American Muslims," said Walid. "After nearly three years of waiting and giving the Township time to fix their zoning scheme, CAIR-MI has no other choice than to assert the Muslim community's rights through litigation."  

CAIR-MI was involved in a similar lawsuit with the city of Troy that was settled in 2022. It was on behalf of the Adam Community Center over a rejected zoning request for the development of the city's first mosque. 

Another lawsuit was settled with Pittsfield Township over the denial of zoning requests for developing an Islamic school.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.