A Federal judge has ordered Horn Lake, Mississippi officials to approve plans for a mosque to be built in the city.
According to a consent decree issued earlier this week, Horn Lake’s denial of zoning approval for the Abraham House of God mosque violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause
On Nov. 3, 2021, the ACLU, the ACLU of Mississippi, and the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP filed a federal lawsuit against the city on behalf of Abraham House of God and its co-founders.
On its website, the non-profit reported that the city’s Planning Commission and Board of Aldermen denied site-plan approval for the Abraham House of God mosque, even though the property for the proposed mosque is zoned for houses of worship and the city’s own staff determined that the application met or exceeded all requirements.
One Alderman ominously warned, “if you let them build it, they will come,” exhorting his fellow board members to “stop it before it gets here.” At a later board hearing, the same Alderman was later heard saying, “I don’t care what they say, their religion says they can lie or do anything to the Jews or gentiles because we’re not Muslims.”
The pleading asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi to, according to the ACLU, “issue an injunction allowing the construction of the mosque.”
Under the terms of the consent decree issued Monday night by Judge Michael P. Mills of the Northern District of Mississippi court, Horn Lake and other defendants agreed to approve plans to permit construction of the mosque, which the ACLU said will be the first-ever in DeSoto County, Mississippi. The decree also said the city must act quickly in the future to address building-related matters like permitting.
The defendants must also pay $25,000 for expenses related to appealing the denial, and pay for attorney fees and costs, ABC24 reports.
The ACLU said, “The federal district court will have continuing jurisdiction over the action for a period of five years to facilitate the enforcement of the consent decree.”
“We are heartened and relieved that we are able to move ahead with our plans for a mosque in Horn Lake, which will provide a critical local house of worship for my family and other Muslims in the community to gather and practice our faith freely and without discrimination,” Plaintiff Riyadh Elkhayyat, co-founder of the Abraham House of God mosque, told the media.
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