New York, NY, May 3, 2011 … The Interfaith Coalition on Mosques (ICOM) is acting in support of a Muslim congregation in Georgia, contending that the group's mosque expansion project was unlawfully blocked.
On behalf of ICOM, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) filed a friend-of-the-court brief that supports the assertion of the Islamic Center of North Fulton, a non-profit organization that runs an Islamic house of worship in Alpharetta, Georgia, that its plan to construct a new worship center to accommodate its growing congregation was illegally blocked by the City of Alpharetta.
Established in 1998 with 25 members, the Islamic Center of North Fulton has grown to a congregation of more than 600. The congregation continues to worship in its original 2,500 square foot space, which no longer meets its needs.
To accommodate its growing congregation, the Islamic center in 2010 submitted an application to the City of Alpharetta for construction of a larger worship center. The City, however, rejected the application, citing a condition against expansion which Fulton County had imposed on the center in 1998 (following a demand by the Fairfax Homeowners Association). The City of Alpharetta treated the condition as if it was a binding "agreement" between the Islamic Center and the neighborhood homeowners' association.
ICOM's brief (PDF) to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia contends that the rights of the Islamic Center must be protected according to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). This federal law safeguards the religious freedom of houses of worship and other religious institutions in the land-use context by requiring courts to apply a strict standard for reviewing laws that substantially burden religious exercise.
The brief details RLUIPA's history and strict standards, and asserts that the City of Alpharetta violated the law.
The Interfaith Coalition on Mosques was formed in 2010 to assist Muslim communities confronting opposition to the legal building, expansion or relocation of their mosques. It is comprised of prominent individuals and organizations from different faith traditions – Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Muslim and Jewish.
The case is Islamic Center of North Fulton, Inc. v. City of Alpharetta, Georgia. ICOM's amicus brief was prepared by Emmet J. Bondurant of Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, LLP.