(SOUTHFIELD, MI, 10/27/2011) ¬- The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-IslamicRelations (CAIR-MI) today wrote a formal complaint to the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking a federal probe into the final denial of land usage for an Islamic school in Pittsfield Township, Mich.

The Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees yesterday unanimously voted in favor of a planning commission motion to deny the Michigan Islamic Academy (MIA) permission to use propertypurchased to be an Islamic school. Several meetings before the planning commission this past year transpired regarding the school in which the initial decision to deny was made.

SEE: Islamic school may sue over zoning change denial (Michigan Radio)

CAIR-MI representatives last week discussed with U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade concerns that thedenial of land usage for MIA may constitute a violation of Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which prohibits local governments from denying zoning to religious institutions without compelling government interests. CAIR-MI was informed that the DOJ could not probe the zoning denial of MIA until after receiving final denial from the township.

In response to the final denial, CAIR-MI sent a letter to the DOJ seeking a federal probe as a potential violation of RLUIPA. “We ask the DOJ to use the full measure of its authority to launch a robust investigation into the recent and final denial of Pittsfield Township regarding the Michigan Islamic Academy,” said CAIR-MI Staff Attorney Lena Masri. “We are also exploring legal options regarding this case, including potential filing of a civil suit on behalf of MIA.”

Masri also noted that the DOJ has intervened recently in zoning issues related to RLUIPA disputes regarding a mosque in Georgia and a Buddhist worship center in California.

SEE: Religious Freedom in Focus; August 2011, Volume 47 (U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division)

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