The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) today announced that it reached a settlement in a lawsuit the Muslim civil rights organization brought on behalf of the Michigan Islamic Academy (MIA) against Pittsfield Township for unlawfully denying the Islamic school its right to build on its property.
SEE: Justice Department Lawsuit Over Islamic School in Washtenaw County Settled
The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan in August 2012, claimed violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), and the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution. [NOTE: RLUIPA protects individuals, houses of worship and other religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and landmarking laws.]
The federal government intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of MIA in October 2015.
CAIR-MI said the settlement, one of the largest since RLUIPA was enacted, grants MIA the right to build a 70,000 square foot Islamic school,
a residential development consisting of 22
and three single family homes
, and a park
. The settlement also awards MIA $1.7 million.
"We welcome the settlement with Pittsfield Township and hope the outcome of this case will serve as a deterrent to other municipalities throughout the country seeking to deny Muslim institutions the right to build or expand their facilities on the basis of religion," said CAIR-MI Legal Director Lena Masri.
"In a year when so much has gone wrong for the Muslim community, this settlement is an example of the good things that can happen when Muslim communities stand up for their rights," said Gadeir Abbas, who served as co-counsel on the case.
"This case is a reminder that our country's laws and institutions exist for the benefit of all Americans, including American Muslims," said Jamal Aref, MIA Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
In a separate consent decree reached at the same time with the federal government, Pittsfield Township agreed to post and maintain signage within sight of each public entrance to the Pittsfield Township City Office Government Building and on the first page of its Internet home page for not less than 180 days stating:
"Pittsfield Charter Township does not apply its zoning or land use laws in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of persons, including a religious assembly or institution, does not apply its zoning or land use laws in a manner that treats religious assemblies or institutions on less than equal terms than nonreligious assemblies or institutions, and does not discriminate on the basis of religion in the application of its laws, policies or procedures, including the application of its land use regulations and zoning laws."
The consent decree further requires Pittsfield Township to provide training within 90 days of entry of the consent decree to its officials, employees and contractors on the requirements of RLUIPA, as well as act on all future religious land use applications in a manner that satisfies all provisions of RLUIPA.
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.
La misión de CAIR es mejorar la comprensión del Islam, fomentar el diálogo, proteger las libertades civiles, capacitar a los musulmanes estadounidenses, y construir coaliciones que promuevan la justicia y la comprensión mutua.