Monday, February 29, 2016

Justice Department Investigating Mosque Zoning Dispute In Nebraska

According to yesterday's Omaha World-Herald, the U.S. Justice Department is investigating complaints by leaders of a mosque in Lexington, Nebraska, that the town is burdening their religious freedom in raising zoning objections to the use of a former downtown laundry building for Muslim prayer.  Somali workers from a local meat packing plant use the building for prayer 5 times a day. The paper reports:
City officials maintain that mosque leaders are ignoring local zoning laws and thumbing their noses at requirements for building permits and fire-code inspections.
They insist that the flap is about a lack of parking, not a denial of religious freedom, and that it wasn’t spurred by “Islamophobia.”
.... We’re just trying to plan and redevelop that part of our town,” said Lexington City Manager Joe Pepplitsch.... Let’s find an alternative.”
But local Muslim leaders question why a community that has hosted waves of immigrants seems to be taking such a hard line against them. They had gathered for prayers in two smaller buildings for eight years before expanding into and later buying the larger laundry next door. They see plenty of empty parking stalls nearby at two city-owned lots.