A minor victory for religious tolerance has been won in a suburb of Atlanta. On Monday evening, city council members voted to allow a group of Muslim residents to open a place of worship inside a shopping center in Kennesaw, Georgia. The city council's vote reversed a decision that was made two weeks ago.
According to the city clerk for Kennesaw, the city council entered a unanimous vote to allow local Muslims to create the mosque at a local shopping center. Previously, council members had voted 4 to 1 when they denied the application to create the mosque two weeks ago. However, an attorney representing members of the mosque advocated aggressively on behalf of local Muslims. The attorney said that the city council's denial of the mosque represented an outright attack on religious freedoms and constitutional rights provided under the First Amendment.
According to a representative of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C., the city council's reversal of its decision was wise. He said that these kinds of decisions -- to deny the creation of new Muslim mosques -- are not uncommon in the United States. The decisions are usually made due to religious bias, and they often result in court battles, he said.
Council May Have Had Valid Reason for Denial
Kennesaw's city clerk says the city council rejected the creation of the mosque due to zoning problems. The clerk said that even though a Christian church was permitted to exist in a different Kennesaw shopping center, different zoning laws apply to the shopping center where the Muslims want their place of worship. Nevertheless, the sentiment of at least some Kennesaw residents was clear. On the day of the first vote, approximately 10 individuals publicly protested the allowance of the mosque by holding U.S. flags and picket signs that said, "No Mosque."
A Unique Kind of Zoning Problem
In this case -- if what the city clerk said was true -- it appears that the city council may have had a valid legal reason for denying the Muslim residents' request to create the mosque due to zoning restrictions. However, it is impossible to know if the decision to follow the law so strictly in the case of the Muslims would have been the same if Christian residents had requested the creation of a church.
It is in cases like these that both a civil rights attorney and a zoning law attorney could be extraordinarily helpful. It is not uncommon for two attorneys with different specialties to work together on a particular case. Indeed, two heads are often better than one -- especially when a case requires knowledge in very different areas of the law.
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