Wednesday, March 15, 2017

City's Settlement of Mosque Litigation Challenged By New Lawsuit

As previously reported, last month the city of Sterling Heights, Michigan reached settlements in two related lawsuits challenging the city's denial of a land use application filed by an Islamic group that wants to construct a mosque on five adjoining lots in the city. Now several individuals have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the settlement.  The complaint (full text) in Youkhana v. City of Sterling Heights, (ED MI, filed 3/13/2017), seeks a declaration that the settlement is invalid and unenforceable. It contends that the city violated plaintiffs' 1st, 4th and 14th Amendment rights, including the Establishment Clause, in the procedures used at the City Council meeting considering the settlement.  It also claims a violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act. the complaint describes the procedures used at the meeting as follows:
The City ... (1) adopted an ad hoc rule that limited speakers wanting to address the Consent Judgment agenda item to just 2 minutes, thereby severely limiting Plaintiffs’ right to express their views at this public hearing, even though the Mayor allowed other speakers addressing less controversial matters that evening to speak at great length; (2) prohibited certain views based on their content and viewpoint (i.e., no one was permitted to mention religion or even hint at it when discussing the Consent Judgment matter, and certainly no one was permitted to make any statement that might be deemed critical of Islam); (3) directed the City police to seize individuals and escort them out of the meeting if the Mayor opposed what they were saying about the Consent Judgment matter; and (4) ordered the citizens out of the public meeting when it came time to actually vote on the Consent Judgment.
Detroit News reports on the lawsuit.