ACLU files lawsuit against Mississippi city that denied zoning approval for planned mosque

Published 4:32 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against a North Mississippi city for denied the zoning approval for a proposed mosque because of an anti-Muslim bias.

According to a news release from the ACLU, the complaint for Abraham House of God v. City of Horn Lake was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi.

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of the mosque and the two local religious leaders who founded it, alleges that the city’s actions violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which provides heightened protections for houses of worship in zoning proceedings, and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Horn Lake officials unlawfully denied zoning approval for a proposed mosque due to anti-Muslim bias, according to a federal lawsuit filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP,” the news release said. “Just before holding a vote on the mosque’s site plan, one Horn Lake Alderman ominously warned, ‘if you let them build it, they will come’ and encouraged his fellow board members to ‘stop it before it gets here.’,” according to the news release.

The complaint states that officials denied approval for the mosque even though it would be located on property zoned for houses of worship, and the mosque’s proposed site plan “met or exceeded” all requirements for approval, according to staff employed by the City’s Planning Commission.

“The zoning proceedings held by Horn Lake’s Planning Commission and Board of Aldermen were filled with anti-Muslim sentiment,” the statement from the ACLU said. “After rejecting the mosque’s site plan, an Alderman defended the decision by claiming that the plaintiffs’ ‘religion says they can lie or do anything to the Jews or gentiles because we’re not Muslims.'”

Horn Lake Alderman Charlie Roberts reportedly admitted that the city had “stepped over the line” and had only rejected the site plan “because they’re Muslims.”

The complaint asks the federal district court to issue an injunction allowing the construction of the mosque, the news release said.