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Stafford County settles federal discrimination lawsuit and clears Muslim cemetery in Fredericksburg, Virginia.


Construction of a 30-acre Muslim cemetery in Fredericksburg, Va. Is set to begin, now that Stafford County has abandoned allegedly unfair rules to end a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit, the Justice Department said Thursday. .

The county has repealed regulations that made it virtually impossible for the All Muslim Association of America (AMAA) to use the Brooke Road site, the DOJ said, paving the way for the federal lawsuit to be dismissed.

The cemetery will accommodate around 15,000 graves, according to Sikander Javed, president of AMAA.

“Everything is behind us now,” he said. “As soon as we have the contractor online, we will start construction shortly. It shouldn’t take too long.

Andrew Spence, director of community engagement for Stafford County, said the county would not comment until the lawsuit is formally dismissed.

The DOJ asked the court to dismiss its lawsuit against the county, which also settled privately with AMAA and paid $ 500,000 in damages to the group.

“RLUIPA protects people of all faiths in their right to practice their religion,” Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. She added that the agency “will continue to vigorously enforce the RLUIPA – through legal proceedings if necessary – against zoning regulations that unreasonably hamper religious exercise, including by restricting the right of a religious group. to bury his dead in accordance with religious rituals and customs “.

In June 2018, the department announced a “place of worship initiative” focused on the provisions of the RLUIPA protecting the rights of religious organizations to worship on their lands.

One of the restrictions imposed by the county was that instead of placing the graves within 50 to 100 feet of a water well, the new ordinance required a distance of 900 feet.

Because the cemetery is located between two houses, the new boundary “takes away all the land,” Mr Javed said.

“There is no way to make a cemetery,” he said. “It was way beyond everything [health] requirements or whatever.

Mr Javed said that, like other religious groups, having a cemetery for the Muslim community was “very important” and that the settlement of the trial served “to defend our religious freedoms”.

He added: “We are happy that the Justice Department got involved in this one. And also our lawyers, I can’t have enough words of praise for them, but they were really very diligent, and they worked really hard day and night.

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