"Religious freedom is one of our most cherished rights, and there are few aspects of that right more central than the ability of communities to establish places for collective worship," Acting Assistant Attorney General Moran said.
The lawsuit alleges that the council's decision to deny the Abu Huraira Islamic Center the right to set up a worship center in the basement of the St. Anthony Business Center violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act passed by Congress in 2000.
The complaint, filed in the US District Court in Minneapolis, alleges that the city council treated an application for a conditional use permit to assemble in the Business Center filed by Abu Huraira on less than equal terms as other, non-religious, conditional use permits for assembly.
The denial of the necessary permit for the worship center unlawfully disfavored a religious use because the light industrial zone where the building is located allowed "assemblies, meeting lodges and convention halls," including a union hall with banquet facilities available to be rented by the public, the Justice Department said.
"An injustice has been done," US Attorney Andrew M Luger said at a news conference in Minneapolis. "I will not stand by while any religious group is subject to unconstitutional treatment that violates federal civil rights laws."
"Freedom of religion and the right to peaceably assemble are enshrined for all Americans in the Bill of Rights...The people of Abu Huraira have a right to peaceably assemble they have a right to practice their religion, and it's our job to enforce that right," Luger said.