The saga of the 21,000-square-foot mega-mosque in Sterling Heights, Michigan, is not over yet.
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The mayor and city council voted Feb. 21 to settle a lawsuit by a Shiite Muslim group and allow it to build a mosque in a residential neighborhood populated largely by Chaldean Christian refugees who escaped Islamic persecution in Iraq.
A companion suit against the city by Barack Obama's Department of Justice alleging the city had denied the mosque a permit based on "anti-Muslim" sentiments in the community was also settled at the Feb. 21 meeting, paving the way for the mosque to start construction.
But the counter-lawsuit filed Monday argues that city officials were actually favoring the Shiite Muslims of neighboring Madison Heights while ignoring the wishes of its own citizens who were overwhelmingly against the mosque.
If built, the American Islamic Community Center, or AICC, will become the third mosque in Sterling Heights.
Read WND's recent report on how the U.S. State Department, through its refugee resettlement program, is importing centuries of religious conflict from the Middle East into the United States, often in the same city and even the same neighborhood.
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Second DOJ-imposed win for Muslims in less than year
It was the second bitter mosque battle in Southeastern Michigan in less than a year. Obama's DOJ forced a madrassa on Pittsfield Township, near Ann Arbor, and that town had to pay out $1.7 million to the mosque while sending township employees to be trained on how not to discriminate against Muslims.
After the contentious Feb. 21 meeting in Sterling Heights in which the mayor ordered police to empty the city-hall chambers before the council took a vote on the mosque deal, WND reported that the Chaldean Christians were upset and talking about a counter-lawsuit.
On Monday, they acted. They had Ann Arbor-based American Freedom Law Center, or AFLC, file a civil rights suit on their behalf against the city and Mayor Michael C. Taylor, alleging violations of state and federal law.
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"The mayor and the corrupted personal interests behind him have outraged a community which is comprised of the largest minority Assyrian/Chaldean Christians from Iraq," said Nahren Anweya, spokeswoman for the Chaldean and Assyrian Christians in Sterling Heights. "This minority group consists of more than four generations of refugees and genocide victims under radical Islam."
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The AICC mosque, after settling the lawsuit, was planning to break ground on the massive mosque this summer, but now it will likely need to put those plans on hold.
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Robert Muise, senior counsel for AFLC, said the mosque's application for a zoning permit was rife with political implications from the start.
The mosque is based in neighboring Madison Heights, but it chose to expand into Sterling Heights, home to the nation's second-largest community of Chaldean Christians, who are 55,000-strong in the city.
"It is evident that AICC wanted to ‘plant the flag’ in this Chaldean Christian community by building this huge mosque," Muise said. "This is a community of Christians, many of whom fled Iraq because they or family members were subjected to violence and abuse from ISIS.
"Indeed, AICC’s zoning application was a joke. It knew the city would reject it. Consequently, its lawsuit, which has now resulted in the Consent Judgment, was a complete set up. Unfortunately, Sterling Heights isn’t the only place where these mosque-building tactics are being employed. We will do what we can to stop it."
When the city agreed to settle the suit and allow the mosque to be built, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, said the victory for the mosque should teach Michigan cities a lesson.
"We hope that this settlement, along with last year's settlement in Pittsfield Township regarding a previously blocked Islamic school project, sends a strong message to city governments in Michigan seeking to deny zoning of religious institutions simply because they are led by Muslims," said CAIR-Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid.
An attorney for the AICC mosque, Azzam Elder, threatened to "monitor" local residents he felt were Islamophobic.
"Moving forward, we’re very concerned about some of what you’ve seen at the public hearings with some of the residents," Elder told the Detroit News. "We'll be monitoring what we feel (could be) potential hate groups."
The 34-page suit by the Chaldeans, filed in U.S. District Court in Southeastern Michigan, puts forth two claims – that the Feb. 21 settlement was unlawful because it forced the city to violate its own zoning ordinance and that the way the Feb. 21 meeting was handled by the mayor violated residents' free speech rights and also violated the state's Open Meetings Act.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of seven residents who live in the neighborhood where the mosque is to be built.
As WND previously reported, the city's attorneys put up almost no effort to defend the city against the lawsuit filed by the AICC mosque, which sued the city in August last year. Obama's DOJ then filed its suit in December and the city immediately went into settlement mode with Barbara McQuade, one of 46 U.S. attorneys who were asked to resign by President Trump just last Friday.
McQuade had said on Feb. 22 she was "very proud" of the settlement that was reached with the city allowing the AICC mosque to build a third mosque in Sterling Heights.
"I think these cases demonstrate the power of the law to right wrongs … and protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of our community," she told the Detroit News.
But McQuade, so concerned about the Muslims, could not muster a single concern about the vulnerability of the Iraqi Christians, said Anweya.
"The ideology is utilizing our American laws and Constitution to build a threat against our national security of this country," she said.
"They're utilizing foreign funding from Iran, and Saudi Arabia is also funding many other mosque projects throughout the country," Anweya added. "This is exactly what happened to the persecuted Christians in Iraq by being caught in a political and religious warfare between the Sunnis and the Shiites and why we have decreased to near extinction. Do Americans want the exact issue right here in their backyards?"
The lawyers for the Chaldeans say the mosque's claims of civil rights violations were misleading, and the decision to enter into a court-imposed consent judgment was made at a meeting in which the mayor engaged in conduct that violated the U.S. Constitution and the Michigan Open Meetings Act.
“The City’s decision to enter into the consent judgment was a fait accompli," said Muise. "The city council meeting was a compete sham. Indeed, this meeting was not an example of democracy in action; it was an example of a naked abuse of government power."
The lawsuit alleges Mayor Taylor violated the U.S. Constitution in the following ways:
- Adopting an ad-hoc rule that limited speakers wanting to address the Consent Judgment matter to just two minutes, thereby severely limiting a private citizen’s right to express his or her views at this public hearing, even though the city allowed other speakers addressing less controversial matters that evening to speak at great length.
- Prohibiting certain views based on their content and viewpoint; that is, 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.
- Directing 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.
- Ordering the citizens out of the public meeting when it came time to actually vote on the Consent Judgment. This last action also violates the Michigan Open Meetings Act, according to the filing.
"This past Friday, March 10, the district court judge presiding over AICC’s federal lawsuit signed the Consent Judgment and closed the case," AFLC said in a press release. "By doing so, the judge effectively authorized the City to violate its zoning ordinance by allowing the construction of the mosque."
The suit also alleges that city officials went out of their way to favor Muslims when considering the mosque.
“Defendants’ purpose for entering into the consent judgment and for the mayor’s actions at the City Council meeting was to favor those who want to build the AICC Mosque over those who oppose it,” the lawsuit stated. “A reasonable observer would conclude that this favors the adherents of Islam over those who are not adherents of Islam.”
According to the lawsuit, a federal consent decree or settlement agreement, such as the one entered into between AICC and the city, cannot be a means for government officials to evade state law. Municipalities, such as Sterling Heights, may not waive or consent to a violation of their zoning laws, the lawsuit states, because those laws are enacted for the benefit of the public.
AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi commented:
“It is evident that the City caved in to the unreasonable demands made by AICC when the Obama Department of Justice got involved in that case by filing its own lawsuit. The legally obnoxious conduct by Mayor Taylor and the remnants of the Obama DOJ is why the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions needs to clean house and far more deeply than just the political appointees. It is precisely the corrupt bureaucratic underbrush that hides and otherwise disguises the swamp that is big government in D.C. AFLC will do what it can through the courts, but Attorney General Sessions ought to take a look at our complaint and understand what his constitutionally perverse underlings are attempting to accomplish through this illegal Consent Judgment."
Attorney Karen Lugo, an expert on land-use litigation who is assisting AFLC in the lawsuit, said, "The residents of Sterling Heights have been left in jeopardy by this rush to settle."
She said the community's concerns about the mosque have from the beginning been focused on traffic and safety.
"So many obvious questions and misrepresentations were never addressed, like the nearly 8,000 square feet in the mosque basement that was never considered for parking and traffic calculations," Lugo added. "The deal never considered the many events and activities that mosque officials have not disclosed to the city that will undoubtedly be offered once the site is in operation. For public safety reasons alone, this Consent Judgment must be invalidated by the court."
Get the book former Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is calling the “most important read of 2017." It’s “Stealth Invasion: Muslim Conquest Through Immigration and Resettlement Jihad” in which investigative reporter Leo Hohmann blows the lid off of the dark side of refugee resettlement.