The vote by Newton County commissioners to temporarily block the construction of a mosque along a busy highway has spurred a threat of a federal lawsuit and calls for a Justice Department investigation.
The NAACP and more than a dozen Muslim groups called for a federal probe over a Tuesday vote by county commissioners to impose a five-week moratorium on permits for all places of worship after residents raised concerns over plans by Al Maad Al Islami for a mosque, cemetery and burial facility on a 135-acre tract of land.
Edward Ahmed Mitchell, who heads the Georgia chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, called it a “clearly discriminatory decision.”
“Newton’s county commissioners abandoned their oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, as well as their own local laws, because of fear and bigotry,” he said.
The proposal was brought by Commissioner John Douglas, who told the Rockdale Citizen he worried that the development, which could eventually include a school, would make his county an attractive place for refugees to resettle.
“Would building those things make us a prime area for the federal government to resettle refugees from the Middle East?” he asked the newspaper. “So I do have some concerns, like the people who live down there.”
The vote for the moratorium was greeted by cheers and applause by the crowd of hundreds, according to WXIA. Mitchell said commissioners “must now decide whether this anti-Muslim discrimination will end at their next public meeting – or inside a federal courtroom.”
Georgia politicians have long struggled to grapple with proposals for mosques. Kennesaw’s city council initially rejected a request to allow a storefront mosque before reversing under the threat of a lawsuit. And Lilburn legislators voted to allow a mosque to expand after costly litigation and pressure from the Justice Department.