Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 24, 2020

RLUIPA SUIT FILED AGAINST STAFFORD COUNTY, VIRGINIA, OVER BLOCKING OF ISLAMIC CEMETERY

This post is from the US DOJ Religious Freedom in Focus Newsletter, July 2020

On June 19, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit alleging that Stafford County, Virginia, violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by enacting overly restrictive zoning regulations prohibiting an Islamic organization from developing a religious cemetery on land it had purchased for that purpose.

The complaint, filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges that the county passed an ordinance in 2016 that blocked the All Muslim Association of America from developing an Islamic cemetery on a 29-acre parcel of land that it owns. When the association bought the property, it complied with all of the state and local requirements for use as a cemetery. But after learning of the association’s plans, the county amended its ordinance to require that cemeteries be no closer than 900 feet from private wells and certain types of streams, thus preventing the association from using its property as a cemetery. The United States’ complaint alleges that this requirement is far more restrictive than the Virginia Department of Health’s 100-foot distancing standard, has no legitimate health justification, imposes a substantial burden on the association’s religious exercise, and is not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling governmental interest.

The complaint seeks injunctive relief, including a court order that the county allow the association to build its cemetery in conformity with the prior ordinance.

 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: