The American Freedom Law Center has filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven residents of Sterling Heights, Michigan, who oppose construction of a mosque in their largely Chaldean Christian neighborhood.
Robert Muise, senior counsel for the law center, said in a statement that the Islamic group behind the plans “wanted to ‘plant the flag’ in this Chaldean Christian community by building this huge mosque. This is a community of Christians, many of whom fled Iraq because they or family members were subjected to violence and abuse from ISIS.”
The action taken by the law center is the latest in a long conflict begun in 2015 over plans for the new mosque in Sterling Heights, a suburb of Detroit. It would be the third mosque in Sterling Heights. Last month, the city settled lawsuits filed by the American Islamic Community Center and the Obama Department of Justice claiming that a decision by the city planning commission to deny an application to build was rooted in religious prejudice.
Residents had concerns about the large mosque creating traffic and noise in their residential area and some voiced criticism of Islam.
The American Freedom Law Center maintains that the city did not have a right to settle the lawsuits in the way it did because doing so violated the city’s zoning ordinance. The law center further claims that the Feb. 21 city council meeting at which the decision was made to allow construction to go forward violated the U.S. Constitution and the Michigan Open Meetings Act. The law center says the mayor unjustly limited speaking time, prohibited certain views from being expressed, and ordered citizens out of the public meeting when it came time to vote.
“The city council meeting was a complete sham,” Muise said in the law center’s statement. “Indeed, this meeting was not an example of democracy in action; it was an example of a naked abuse of government power.”
After the Feb. 21 decision allowing construction of the mosque to go forward, mosque attorney Dan Dalton was quoted in the Detroit Free Press calling it “a win for religious liberty not only for the Muslim community in Sterling Heights, but for all faith-based communities.” He said the agreement called for reducing the height of the dome and spires by almost 2 feet and prohibiting amplified outdoor sound to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer. The agreement also addressed parking by saying it would only be on a lot, Dalton said.
However, the American Freedom Law Center says many issues involving traffic and safety that would arise from events at the mosque have still not been fully addressed. Muise called the mosque’s zoning application “a joke.”
“It knew the city would reject it,” he said. “Consequently, its lawsuit, which has now resulted in the consent judgment, was a complete set up. Unfortunately, Sterling Heights isn’t the only place where these mosque-building tactics are being employed. We will do what we can to stop it.”
The American Freedom Law Center is a public interest litigation firm that seeks to defend the nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage.