August 12, 2016 Radio Commentary

Mosque Zoned-In, Other Religions Zoned-Out

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, August 12, 2016 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

Acting under new regulations, the Housing and Urban Development Agency has begun its strategy to over-turn the right of states and local government to zone property according to community standards. This is what’s happening.

Last month, the federal Department of Justice filed suit against a tiny 21-square-mile township, where 60,000 residents live “out in the country,” just northeast of Philadelphia. The town was originally named Salem, meaning “peace,” but in 1701 Ben, which means “son,” was added to honor William Penn. So, Bensalem – “son of peace” – is in trouble with the federal government, because local officials refused to adjust the local zoning code to allow a mosque to be built in town.

This is the story in a nutshell. In 2014 Muslims who were meeting in a local firehouse, applied to build a mosque next to township property. After six meetings their application was denied, but last month on July 21st, the Department of Justice filed suit in District Court to force Bensalem officials to grant a permit for the mosque.

A similar problem arose in Bloomington, Minnesota, where residents filed a formal complaint with the city council on July 25th, claiming city officials gave special privileges for a mosque to have exclusive use of Smith Park. Therefore, a group of residents, identified as “Friends of Smith Park,” complained that “you’ve privileged [members of the mosque] above all other religions. You’ve made Smith Park a [mosque-only] zone after the park is already closed, excluding citizens of all other faiths and those of no faith.”Addressing other Council members, a Bloomington City Council member expressed his opinion this way: “I feel like we’re punishing applicants that came after [the mosque permit was issued], because you required [new applicants] to do things [the mosque] is not required to do.”

By refusing to enforce specific requirements of the conditional-use permit issued for the mosque, Bloomington City Council members, in effect, made the neighborhood around Smith Park a zone-free area. Friends of Smith Park are asking only that city council resolutions be enforced [for mosque-use of the park] … exactly as rules are enforced for all other religious institutions that have a conditional-use permit.

Because of new HUD regulations, serious zoning problems, such as these, will spread across the country, and every community could be reconfigured by a federal agency, namely, HUD. Call Senator Isakson at 770 661-0999 and ask him to have Senator Lee’s amendment taken off the table in the Senate. If Lee’s amendment were taken off the table and were to pass both houses of Congress, it would block funding for implementation of HUD’s new regulations that allow federal interference into local control of zoning. For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.