By Sarah Barchus
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Minneapolis announced Monday that it is investigating St. Anthony's City Council's rejection of a proposed Islamic center, the Star Tribune reported.
Spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office Jeanne Cooney said the administrative development formalized the investigation that started as a preliminary review in June, the Star Tribune reported.
The City Council voted 4-1 on June 12 to deny the Abu Huraira Islamic Center's request to use part of an old building in St. Anthony's light industrial zone for prayer space, the Pioneer Press reported.
The City Council's decision followed a meeting in which some St. Anthony residents voiced their opposition to the center and some made disparaging remarks about Islam, the Star Tribune reported.
The Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations approved of the investigation. Executive Director Lori said the decision might have violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and federal law's equal terms clause, which prohibits discriminating between secular and religious assemblies, the Pioneer Press reported.
"There is a daycare housed in that same building. That is secular assembly and the city is saying you can't have a religious assembly in the same building... that doesn't make sense," Saroya said, the Pioneer Press reported.
St. Anthony Councilmember Hal Gray said the daycare center and the union located in the light-industry zone is acceptable because the center assists the workers with childcare and the union facilitates industry, the Pioneer Press reported.
"The City Council's decision to deny the permit was made after months of study and careful consideration," St. Anthony City Manager Mark Casey said, the Pioneer Press reported. The ruling held that the center would be incompatible with the light industrial zoning, the Star Tribune reported.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said that this is the fourth time a mosque proposal was rejected in Minnesota this year, the Pioneer press reported. The other projects in Plymouth, Willmar and Bloomington were eventually approved, the Star Tribune reported.