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Video: After CAIR Request, U.S. Attorney Looks into Minn. Mosque Denial

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5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has learned the U.S. Attorney, for the District of Minnesota, is now looking into a permit denial for an Islamic Center. Last week, the Village of St. Anthony denied a group of Muslims a conditional use permit to open the Islamic Center and mosque. The City Council said the Islamic Center did not meet zoning requirements. But, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS obtained an email written by U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, B. Todd Jones, that says he has assigned an attorney to review St. Anthony's decision to make sure it was not an act of discrimination. The Feds are interested in this case because St. Anthony's Planning Commission voted, 5-1, to approve the permit. Then, just before the City Council's vote, the city changed its zoning ordinance and the Council then voted, 4-1, to deny the permit. We are told the Feds want to know why the Council made a last minute change in the zoning ordinance before the vote was taken. City officials in St. Anthony declined comment because there is possible litigation with this case. The U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed they are looking into the matter, but also declined to comment. ---------- CAIR-MN Asks DOJ to Probe Bias in Rejection of Islamic Center MINNEAPOLIS, June 13, 2012 / The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today called on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate allegations of anti-Muslim bias in the rejection of a proposed Islamic center in St. Anthony, Minn. Last night, the St. Anthony City Council voted 4-1 to deny a conditional use permit for the Abu-Huraira Islamic Center, despite a recommendation by the St. Anthony Planning Commission to approve the project. The project had been on hold since a March moratorium by the council. At yesterday's council meeting, the proposed Islamic center faced opposition from intolerant speakers who -- Islamic center proponents assert -- clearly exposed the real reason for the approval delay and rejection. Several residents made anti-Muslim comments at the city council hearing, including: "There is no other religion in the world that condones violence. Islam is evil," and, "Where did you come from? [Go] change your own country." Video: CAIR-MN Will Ask DOJ to Probe Rejection of Mosque Plan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALodnTDQxro Video: Anti-Muslim Comments Mar Vote to Reject Islamic Center (CAIR-MN) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo6A0ly5YAY CAIR-MN: City Council Rejects Islamic Center Plan (Star Tribune) http://www.startribune.com/local/north/158785005.html In a response to the city council's rejection of the Islamic center, CAIR-MN sent a letter to the DOJ seeking a federal investigation. CAIR-MN is asking federal authorities to determine whether the denial of land usage for the Islamic center constitutes a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). RLUIPA protects religious institutions from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use regulations. RLUIPA and the Minnesota Constitution ban zoning restrictions that impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person or institution unless the government can show that it has a compelling interest for imposing zoning restrictions and that the restriction is the least restrictive way for the government to further that interest. "We ask the DOJ to use the full measure of its authority to launch a thorough investigation into the recent denial of the proposed Abu-Huraira Islamic Center," wrote CAIR-MN Executive Director Lori Saroya in her letter to Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division. Saroya said CAIR-MN is also asking DOJ officials to meet with St. Anthony Muslim leaders. CONTACT: CAIR-MN Executive Director Lori Saroya, 612-327-6700, E-Mail: lsaroya@cair.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, E-Mail: ihooper@cair.com