During what is often referred to as the holiday season, a variety of cultures and religions honor an equally diverse number of both religious and secular traditions. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Bodhi Day are just some of the religious holidays that are celebrated this time of year. And for many who don’t subscribe to a particular faith tradition, the season is still seen as an occasion to gather with friends and family.
No matter why you are celebrating this holiday season, we can all celebrate living in a country where religious freedom is a fundamental value. The First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses not only protect the right to believe (or not to believe), but also the right to express and to manifest religious beliefs.
In honor of our country’s proud history of promoting religious freedom, and the ACLU’s commitment to protecting the rights of all religious believers to practice their faith, this holiday season we are highlighting 12 cases we have brought on behalf of a variety of faiths defending religious liberty and the right to religious expression.
Tenth Day: A Mosque in Maine
Zoning regulations must not restrict religious expression, and the ACLU has fought on behalf of various religious groups to ensure they have the ability to worship freely in their communities.
The Maine Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the City of Portland on behalf of the Portland Masjid and Islamic Center, a group of Muslims seeking to build a mosque. The group had collectively purchased a small building, a former television repair shop, to use as a community center for prayer and education. Existing zoning laws classified the building as part of a residential and commercial zone. Religious activities were prohibited.
In response to the MCLU’s legal and advocacy efforts, Portland amended its land-use ordinance, and the Portland Planning Board granted approval to the project.
The mosque now primarily serves as a religious and cultural center for Muslim families who came to this country from Afghanistan fleeing religious persecution following invasion of their country by the Soviet Union. Read more…