TROY — The city of Troy discriminated against a Muslim community group by rejecting plans to build an Islamic center, according to a federal court lawsuit filed Thursday.
The nonprofit Adam Community Center sued the City Council, Planning Commission and members of Troy’s Zoning Board of Appeals. The group has tried unsuccessfully to build a community center in Troy, which has approximately 53 places of worship within its 33.6-square-mile borders but not one for Muslims, according to the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI).
The lawsuit alleges Troy officials purposely and unconstitutionally tried to block the Muslim community from building a mosque along Rochester Road, north of Big Beaver Road, by unfairly and illegally applying zoning ordinances.
Adam Community Center sued five months after the Troy Zoning Board of Appeals indicated there was no acceptable place in the city left for the group to build a mosque. The decision prompted a Justice Department investigation into the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals’ practices, which is ongoing, according to CAIR-MI.
“Freedom of religion is a benchmark of American civil rights and is a beacon of freedom that shines across the globe,” Amy Doukoure, staff attorney for CAIR-MI, said in a statement Thursday. “When public officials are apparently guided by Islamophobia in their decision-making, we have an obligation to fight back to preserve our religious freedoms.”
Troy officials “will aggressively defend this lawsuit,” City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm wrote in an email to The Detroit News.
“The city articulated several reasons for its denial of Adam’s multiple and significant variance requests for a retrofit of an existing building on Rochester Road that abuts residential properties,” she wrote.
The lawsuit is the latest legal fight involving a Metro Detroit municipality and Muslim groups trying to build places of worship.
CAIR-MI and the Justice Department settled a similar case in 2016 after Pittsfield Township denied zoning for an Islamic school. Last year, the city of Sterling Heights paid a financial settlement to the Muslim community stemming from a zoning denial for an Islamic center.
“Troy has unfortunately taken the route of other municipalities in blocking the establishment or expansion of religious facilities for American Muslims,” CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid said in a statement. “We have no other option except to assert the constitutional rights of our community through litigation.”
- From The Detroit News