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MPAC Congratulates Islamic Center of South Bay for DOJ Ruling Supporting Religious Freedom

February 6, 2013


MPAC congratulates Masjid Alnoor, the Islamic Center of South Bay, for reaching a historic settlement with the City of Lomita through the intervention of the Department of Justice. Following an inquiry raised by MPAC, the DOJ opened a case, which led to this week’s ruling that the City of Lomita violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when it denied the Islamic center’s application to build a new mosque on its property. The law prohibits land use decisions that discriminate based on religion or impose substantial and unjustified burdens on religious exercise.

SEE: “Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Lomita, Calif., to Protect Religious Exercise” (Justice.gov)

 “Religious freedom is among our most fundamental rights, and there are few aspects of that right more basic than the ability of a religious community to come together for worship and fellowship in a decent and appropriate setting on its own property,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “With RLUIPA, Congress has sought to ensure that this basic right is protected from encroachment by unjustified local zoning actions.”

Though the settlement still must be approved by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, it is worth celebrating when freedom and justice prevail in the face of intolerance and hate.

“When in March 2010, the Lomita City Council Members denied the application of the Lomita Mosque to construct a new building, MPAC was the first organization that contacted the Department of justice and encouraged a full investigation,” said the mosque’s founding member Dr. Iraj Ershaghi. “We believe this has historical significance as it will affect every other application by local communities nationally who wish to build a mosque.”

Through work with DOJ attorneys, CAIR-LA and a private law firm, the Islamic Center has reached a settlement with the city, with one of the outcomes being that Lomita City Council members undergo training on the law. The city must reconsider a new application from the Islamic Center for an expedited construction and the city periodically will report to the DOJ. 

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