The Department of Justice has settled a lawsuit with the city of Farmersville over claims of discrimination by area religious leaders who were denied a permit to build an Islamic cemetery in 2017.
The settlement, the DOJ said, resolves allegations that Farmersville violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when they denied a building permit filed by the Islamic Association of Collin County.
The DOJ said federal law protects the rights of all religious communities to buy or rent land for religious purposes including places of worship, religious schools, charitable activities, and cemeteries without discrimination or the imposition of unwarranted burdens.
The DOJ complaint alleged that the city's denial of the Islamic Association's application to develop the property as a cemetery imposed a substantial burden on the Islamic Association's religious exercise and discriminated against the Islamic Association on the basis of religion. The city denied the allegations. However, as part of the agreement, the city has agreed to provide training to its officials and employees about their obligations under RLUIPA and to notify the public about the city's compliance with RLUIPA in its zoning and land use actions.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday.
The suit stemmed from a DOJ investigation launched in September 2017 after the Islamic Association's application to build a cemetery was denied.
"In August 2018, the United States notified the City that it had concluded that the City had violated RLUIPA and intended to file suit, and offered the City an opportunity to negotiate a resolution. In September 2018, the City and the Islamic Association entered into a separate agreement allowing for the approval of the cemetery and in December 2018, the City approved the Islamic Association's application to develop the land as a cemetery," the DOJ said Tuesday.
RLUIPA is a federal law that protects religious institutions from unduly burdensome or discriminatory land use regulations.
"There is no place in our community for religious discrimination," said U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Brown in a statement Tuesday. "Our office is committed to protecting religious freedom."