Denial of mosque applications spark federal government investigations

Concerned that prejudice rather than genuine zoning issues might be at work, the U.S. Department of Justice has opened 28 cases nationwide involving local denials of mosque construction applications since 2000, according to a department official.

While Norwalk’s recent rejection of a proposed mosque on Fillow Street is not among them, the DOJ’s investigations elsewhere are real. Of the 28 cases, 11 have resulted in full investigations and four remain open.

“Of the 11 investigations opened since 2000, two resulted in the filing of DOJ lawsuits that were resolved by consent decrees, three resulted in the local government voluntarily permitting the mosque, one led to a settlement of a privately filed lawsuit, four are currently pending, and in one case we determined that further action by the department was not warranted,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The department is now reviewing a case in West Haven to determine if an investigation is warranted, the official said.

There is no evidence to suggest the department is investigating the recent decision by the Norwalk Zoning Commission to reject Al-Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk’s plan for a mosque/multi-purpose hall at 127 Fillow St.

The commission voted 4-3 last Wednesday night to deny the special permit needed to construct the 27,000-square-foot structure in a residential zone. Mayor Richard A. Moccia on Thursday said the decision was well-thought out and had nothing to do with religion. “It had to do with density, size and traffic,” Moccia said.

The Hour, 10 June 2012