In Youkhanna v. City of Sterling Heights, (ED MI, Aug. 1, 2018), a Michigan federal district court dismissed a lawsuit challenging a consent decree approved by the Sterling Heights City Council growing out of a dispute over zoning approval for a mosque. (See prior posting.) The consent decree settled two related lawsuits– one by the Islamic Center and one by the Department of Justice– that alleged violations of RLUIPA and of the Islamic Center’s free exercise rights.  An overcrowded and contentious City Council meeting preceded approval of the consent decree.  Rejecting the challenge to approval of the consent decree the court said in part:The crux of Plaintiffs’ Complaint is that the approval of the Consent Judgment should be invalidated because the Council purportedly failed to abide by the City’s Zoning Code by neglecting to consider the discretionary standards set forth in § 25.02. Plaintiffs’ further assert that the Consent Judgment should be invalidated because the City did not comply with the notice requirements under the MZEA [Michigan Zoning Enabling Act]. Both of Plaintiffs’ arguments are without merit.The court also rejected claims that the Michigan Open Meetings Act had been violated and that defendants’ 1st, 4th and 14th Amendment rights had been infringed. The court said in part:Plaintiffs claim their speech was impermissibly chilled when they and other audience members were limited to a two-minute speaking time, prevented from speaking critically of the Islamic faith, and removed from the meeting for being disruptive. However, … [w]hen the government designates a limited public forum for speech, as is the case of a city council meeting, it may apply restrictions to the time, place, and manner of speech so long as those restrictions “are content neutral, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample alternative channels of communication.”The court had previously denied a preliminary injunction in the challenge.  Detroit News reports that defendants will appeal yesterday’s ruling.Meanwhile, according to AINA, another mosque controversy is on the horizon in Sterling Heights as a group of Pakistanis are moving ahead with plans to convert a former Lutheran church there into a mosque.



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