April 21, 2017
Issue: Religious Freedom
The Islamic Center of Culpeper Settles Religious Land Use Lawsuit
CULPEPER, VIRGINIA – The Board of Supervisors in Culpeper County, Virginia has voted to approve a settlement agreement with the Islamic Center of Culpeper (ICC) to resolve a religious land use lawsuit. Under the terms of this agreement, the ICC will be able to move forward with plans to build a new mosque in the county.
The ICC, a small congregation of local residents and families, has long sought to build a mosque to meet the needs of its growing community. After identifying a suitable location, the ICC requested a routine “pump and haul” sewage permit from the county. In April 2016, the county denied the ICC’s request for the permit; thus preventing the ICC from building their mosque.
The ICC, represented by Muslim Advocates and the law firm of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, filed a legal action against the county in March 2017. The lawsuit asserted claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the United States and Virginia Constitutions.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the county agreed to approve the permit and compensate the ICC for $10,000 of out-of-pocket expenses. Additionally, the county has publicly stated that “the county and the ICC are glad to resolve this matter expeditiously and without further litigation. The Board of Supervisors welcomes the ICC to Culpeper County as it does all other religious organizations. This matter is resolved in the spirit of compromise and good will without being tried.”
“This is a victory for religious freedom,” said Johnathan Smith, legal director of Muslim Advocates. “The county’s vote represents a commitment to allowing the ICC to build its house of worship free from discrimination.”
“We can finally move ahead and start building our mosque so we can fully meet the needs of our religious community,” said Mohammad Nawabe, the ICC’s director. “Our members have lived in Culpeper County for decades, and all we have ever asked for is to be treated the same as everyone else.”
A copy of the settlement agreement can be found here.
Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.