ACLU Asks Kentucky Zoning Board To Reverse Improper Permit Denial For Muslim Prayer Space

September 22, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org
 
MAYFIELD, KY – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Kentucky today asked the zoning board in Mayfield, Kentucky to reverse its improper decision denying a permit to a local Muslim man seeking to hold prayers in a rented storefront in the town's central business district.

Two weeks after initially granting Khader Ahmed's permit application based on the advice of city staff and attorneys, the zoning board rescinded its approval claiming the storefront had "inadequate parking" – a decision made without first hearing from Ahmed or his representatives and despite there having been no changes in parking conditions since the board's original approval.

"We hope the local government reconsiders its decision and acknowledges the rights of Mr. Ahmed and the Mayfield Muslim community to the free exercise of their religion," said Michael Aldridge, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kentucky. "The board made the right decision when it originally granted the permit. It is troubling that it reversed course when there were no changes in circumstances."

The ACLU sent Mr. Ahmed's request for reversal on the 10th anniversary of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), a federal civil rights statute that gives houses of worship heightened protection in zoning disputes. The ACLU actively supported passage of the statute in 2000, and has since used the law numerous times in defense of churches, synagogues and mosques around the country.
 
"The board's actions raise serious concerns about religious liberty," said Daniel Mach, Director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. "The right of all faiths to worship freely is one of our core American values. The board should reverse its denial and respect the basic rights of Mr. Ahmed and the Muslim community of Mayfield."

The ACLU today is also publishing an interactive map documenting instances in which existing and proposed mosque sites across the country have been targeted for vandalism and other criminal acts, as well as instances where there have been efforts to block or deny necessary zoning permits for the construction and expansion of other facilities. The map is available online at: www.aclu.org/map-nationwide-anti-mosque-activity

The ACLU's request for a reversal of the Mayfield, Kentucky zoning board is available online at: www.aclu.org/religion-belief/request-kentucky-zoning-board-reverse-denial-permit-muslim-man 
 
Additional information on the ACLU's work defending religious practice and expression is available online at: www.aclu.org/aclu-defense-religious-practice-and-expression

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