Despite federal order, DuPage delays decision on mosque

June 11, 2013

(WBEZ/Robin Amer)
An Iranian Muslim group has sought, since 2008, to site a mosque and learning center on a residential plot in unincorporated DuPage County.

In an unexpected move, the DuPage County Board put off a vote Tuesday morning to comply with a federal order that would allow a mosque to be built near Naperville. The Irshad Learning Center recently won several major points in a lawsuit it filed after the board denied permission in 2009 to use a residential lot for worship and gathering purposes.

“We embrace the order, we respect the order, we will carry out the order,” said County Board Chairman Dan Cronin. “However, we would like to convey to the judge a concern about our process and what we feel is our duty.”

In particular, Cronin said Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer’s decision not only to reverse the board’s past action, but also to instruct the board to revisit the issue, caused concern.

“Whether the judge can direct the county or direct the agency, direct the building department,... or direct a county board member to vote differently from what his conscience would dictate... may not seem like a big difference for a lot of people,” Cronin said, “but for this body that takes their job very seriously, we’d at least like to have a discussion with the judge about that.”

Cronin said the board’s attorney’s will reach out to Judge Pallmeyer to ask if they might implement the order without taking another vote on the matter.

“The issue here is that you have some legislators on the board that have a problem with being ordered by a court to vote a certain way on a certain proposal,” said County Board Member Tony Michaelassi. Michaelassi supported the Irshad Learning Center’s bid for conditional zoning use when the board voted on it previously.

“So if we can get the decision enacted in some way that doesn’t require a vote by the board, but instead we could comply with the order without the board taking a legally binding vote, that’s what we’re looking for,” he added.

A lawyer from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which represents the Irshad Center, said he hopes the board receives an answer soon.

Odette Yousef is WBEZ’s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her @oyousef and @WBEZoutloud.