Muslim group sues DuPage County over zoning denial

August 3, 2012

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A congregation that failed to win permission to turn a house near west suburban Bartlett into a mosque is claiming religious discrimination.

An Islamic group Friday filed a federal lawsuit against DuPage County, claiming the county discriminated against them in their bid to open a worship center. The Islamic Center of Western Suburbs has sought permission since 2008 to use a home in an unincorporated area near Bartlett as a religious space for roughly 30 worshippers to pray five times a day. In May the County Board put an end to the zoning process with a vote to deny the group’s petition.

“They suffered discrimination, they suffered some retaliation, and it’s time that they have that answered in court,” said ICWS attorney Mark Daniel.

The suit alleges that the county should not have applied a new set of zoning standards to the ICWS petition, because the new code went into effect after the zoning application had been submitted. Daniel also claims that the new standards violate federal laws that protect religious assembly.

“ICWS’s suit should have an effect on anyone who is trying to operate a religious land use that’s told you have to have public water and sewer, or that’s told that you need more acreage for the number of people that you have, or that is told that you cannot convert a home or a residential structure to a religious land use,” said Daniel. He said many small religious groups were concerned that the new zoning standards, which went into effect last October, would make it nearly impossible for them to find or build compliant worship spaces in the county’s unincorporated areas.

Representatives from DuPage County were not immediately prepared to comment. ICWS is now the second Islamic group to sue DuPage County in recent years over zoning issues. The case of the Irshad Learning Center, which one group hopes to locate near Naperville, is still moving through the courts. Last month, another Islamic congregation began construction of the Muslim Educational Cultural Center of America after the County Board approved their zoning application to construct a worship and activity space near west suburban Willowbrook.