The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota sent a letter to St. Anthony Village on Wednesday asking them to lift the moratorium on the consideration of issuing conditional use permits. St. Anthony Village had adopted this moratorium after a group applied for a permit to establish an Islamic Center in the basement of the former Medtronic headquarters.
This moratorium effectively violates the Federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act which strictly limits the ability of local governments to burden religious exercise by imposing land use regulation. Courts have ruled in a number of cases similar to this one that the impact and delay caused by the moratorium would likely be considered a substantial burden on the group's free exercise of religion. Because the moratorium will impose a substantial burden, the city must justify it as being the least restrictive means of serving a compelling interest. It is unclear what the city's interest is in imposing the moratorium other than to appease members of the public who have vocally opposed the Islamic Center; however taking time to "study the impact on the community" as reported in the Star Tribune, is likely not a compelling interest.
In their letter the ACLU-MN requests that they immediately lift the moratorium and allow that religious uses be placed on equal footing or grant the Abu-Huraira Islamic Center's application for a conditional use permit.
"Religious freedom is not granted to only one class of people, it is a fundamental American right", stated Charles Samuelson. "We hope that St. Anthony Village does the right thing and allow Abu-Huraira to establish an Islamic Center."