The US Department of Justice (DOJ) settled claims on Tuesday against a Texas city that refused to approve plans for an Islamic cemetery.
The US filed its complaint against the City of Farmersville earlier on Tuesday under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). The complaint alleged that the city unduly burdened the Muslim community’s ability to practice their faith by denying plans to develop a cemetery on property owned by the Islamic Association of Collin County.
The Islamic Association purchased the land with the city’s approval in 2015 to meet a growing need as Collin County’s Muslim population continues to expand (growing from 6,000 in 2000 to 23,000 in 2019). However, the cemetery soon sparked public controversy, leading the city to eventually deny the Islamic Association’s application to build the cemetery in July 2017. The DOJ complaint alleges that several city officials campaigned on their opposition to the cemetery and made comments about Islam that evidenced an intent to discriminate, in violation of the RLUIPA.
The DOJ launched an investigation into the city’s denial of the Islamic Association’s plans in September 2017 and notified the city in August 2018 that it intended to file this suit. The city soon approved the Islamic Association’s application and plans for the cemetery are now permitted to proceed.
This suit seeks to prevent future discrimination and, as part of the settlement, the DOJ announced that the city will be training to its officials about their obligations under RLUIPA and notifying the public about its efforts to comply with the statute.