HORN LAKE, Miss. — The American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday they have secured a consent decree that allows construction of a mosque in DeSoto County, Mississippi, after local officials voted against issuing it a permit.
According to the consent degree, Horn Lake officials must approve a plan within 14 days for the mosque’s construction and act quickly to address other permitting issues. The federal judge says the city of Horn Lake’s denial for the Abraham House of God mosque is “null and void.”
This order also said that the defendants must pay the legal fees for the plaintiffs in this case.
The Federal District Court will have jurisdiction over this matter for a period of five years to ensure enforcement of the consent decree.
“We are heartened and relieved that we are able to move ahead with our plans for a mosque in Horn Lake, which will provide a critical local house of worship for my family and other Muslims in the community to gather and practice our faith freely and without discrimination,” said Plaintiff Riyadh Elkhayyat, co-founder of the Abraham House of God mosque.
Horn Lake officials declined to comment on the matter Tuesday.
A Memphis business owner had applied to build the mosque on a vacant plot of land on Church Road between Horn Lake and Fogg Roads, a stretch of road with at least three churches.
But city planners rejected plans for the mosque in February, and in April, aldermen voted 5-1 to uphold that decision. Officials with the ACLU of Mississippi say city officials unlawfully denied zoning approval because of anti-Muslim bias.
Alderman John Jones cited concerns about additional traffic, possible noise ordinance violations and even potential fire hazards.
Jonathan Youngwood, an attorney on the case, says his clients are thankful they can move ahead with the project.
“The permitting process will continue as they have to go to the city for any permit process or approvals and the city is required to address that expeditiously,” Youngwood said.
He also said the courts decision should send a message.
“That you can’t deny building permits based on religious bias and that if you do there are legal remedies and the legal remedies will be successful,” Youngwood said. “People have a constitutionals and federal right to freely practice their religion and if you violate those rights then you’ll be held to account.”
The city must also pay $25,000.