Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Lomita, Calif., to Protect Religious Exercise

 

The Department of Justice announced a settlement with the city of Lomita over the expansion of the Islamic Center of South Bay.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA) office welcomed the Justice Department’s announcement on Friday of a settlement with the city of Lomita, Calif., resolving the DOJ’s allegations that the city violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when it denied the Islamic Center of the South Bay’s application to consolidate several aging buildings on its property into a two-story structure in 2010.

The government’s complaint, which was filed with the court along with an agreed order resolving the lawsuit last Friday, alleges that the structures currently being used by the Islamic Center are insufficient to enable the community to come together for worship and fellowship or to perform religious rituals properly. The lawsuit alleges that the city’s denial of the Islamic Center’s application to construct a new center in place of these inadequate facilities imposed a substantial burden on the religious exercise of the Islamic Center and its members.

The government settlement incorporates portions of a related agreement between the city and the Islamic Center, which conditionally resolves a lawsuit filed by CAIR-LA and Hadsell, Stormer, Richardson, and Renik, LLP on behalf of ICSB in March 2012. 

SEE : CAIR-LA Welcomes Conditional Land Use Settlement Between Islamic Center, City

“We welcome the DOJ’s complaint and the agreed order, as the constitutional right to religious freedom inherently includes the ability of a religious community to gather in an adequate setting for worship and camaraderie on its own property,” said CAIR-LA’s lead staff attorney Ameena Qazi.

As part of the agreed order, the city has agreed to consider a renewed application by the Islamic Center on an expedited schedule. The city also agreed that its leaders and employees who make land-use decisions will attend training on the requirements of RLUIPA. In addition, the city periodically will report to the Justice Department.

 

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