Twin Cities suburb sued for religious discrimination

John Thomas

The federal government is prosecuting a Twin Cities suburb for allegedly nixing a proposed Islamic center based on religious reasons, news sources report.

U.S. Attorney General Andrew Luger sued St. Anthony over its refusal to allow an Islamic group to use the St. Anthony Business Center as a place of worship, according to Minnesota Public Radio. He sued the city under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act — a first in Minnesota.

“I will not stand by while any religious group is subject to unconstitutional treatment that violates federal civil rights laws,” he told the Star Tribune at a press conference announcing the suit.

The Abu-Huraira Islamic Center intended to use the basement of the former Medtronic headquarters as a worship space and rent out a large portion of the building to businesses for revenue, according to the Tribune.

The St. Anthony City Council denied the groups’ request to use the building for worship, saying it was zoned for industrial use. But Luger told the Star Tribune that in 2008, the city gave a permit to the Twin Cities Christian Association for a commercial building in the same zone.

City Attorney Jay Lindgren told MPR that the city denied a similar permit for a Christian group in 2011. He said he doesn’t believe the organization’s religion had anything to do with the council’s refusal to allow them the space.

"Religious uses are allowed in the vast majority of the city, and they're welcomed of any faith, just not within that small part of the city, which is reserved for job creation and to be the economic engine of the city," Lindgren told MPR.