Mosque denial spurs new federal lawsuit against DuPage County
Updated: September 10, 2012 12:37PM
CHICAGO — DuPage County is again being taken to court over its denial of a permit for an Islamic worship organization.
Elmhurst attorney Mark Daniel filed suit Friday afternoon in federal court on behalf of the Islamic Center of the Western Suburbs. The suit alleges that the county violated provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 when it refused May 8 to grant a conditional use permit.
The organization sought clearance to open a worship center in a vacant house it bought four years ago on Army Trail Road near West Chicago. The request faced vocal objections from some of the site’s neighbors.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, takes issue with the county’s T-2-11 Text Amendment, which was adopted last fall, partly to streamline the process of securing permits through the zoning code. The complaint asserts that the county’s zoning regulations violate the rules by placing “unprecedented and overly burdensome” limits and stipulations on lot sizes, connections to utilities and the conversion of residential structures to worship buildings. The county is named as the defendant.
County officials said when the code change was being discussed that organizations with applications submitted prior to the adoption of the amendments would be exempt from its requirements.
The complaint asserts that the Islamic Center’s right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment was breached as well.
“Basically that allegation sets forth a pattern where the county punished ICWS for violating the county code, even though it was never proven,” he said.
DuPage authorities also illegally applied restrictions, he said, through “two very vague provisions of conditional use standards.” The suit asserts that the code was used in a punitive fashion against the Islamic Center.
“The premise of this lawsuit is that even without T-2-11, the decision violated (the rules),” said Daniel, who emphasized that the application sought no variances and complied with all county requirements.
The County Board turned down the request with a vote of 15-3.
Spokeswoman Johnna Kelly said the county would reserve comment on the filing until officials have reviewed the document. Paul Darrah, spokesman for State’s Attorney Robert Berlin, also said his office would look over the complaint before commenting.
The filing marks the second time since early 2010 that the county has been sued for refusing to allow an Islamic group to establish a worship site. The Irshad Learning Center filed a complaint after the County Board turned down its request for a permit to open a facility in an abandoned home on 75th Street just east of Naperville. That effort also was opposed by neighbors of the property, who said the center would bring unwanted noise, light and traffic to the area. The suit remains in court.
With the ball now in its court, the county will either respond or file a motion to have the case dismissed.
“I think the complaint’s going to survive,” Daniel said. “But it’s really up to the county whether we’re going to be talking, or we’re going to be going to court.”