Feds settle with Henrico county in mosque dispute

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A Justice Department investigation into the decision-making involving a Muslim mosque in Henrico leads to a settlement.

The Board of Supervisors approved the mosque last month, but not without heated debate.

Here's what the settlement means for Henrico. Not only can it not stand in the way of the mosque construction, but key staff will undergo non-discrimination training.

Back on August 10th, Henrico supervisors gave the green light for the first Muslim mosque in the county. The same proposal involving just over five acres off Impala Drive had been rejected in November, 2008.

County attorney Joe Rapisarda said the board based its decision then on the comprehensive land use plan.

But many Muslims alleged discrimination and the feds claimed the county's actions violated the law when it comes to religious groups and land use decisions.

Just days ago, a settlement was announced. Henrico must follow specific requirements.

Key staff, including the supervisors and planning commission, must complete a training seminar on the religious land use act. The county is also required to post the rights people have under that law.

Rapisarda said they'd been working with the feds for some time now.

"The county agreed to this because it's good government anyway, and things Henrico County would have done there was no need to fight needless litigation when the Board of Supervisors already approved the mosque," said Rapisarda.

The training is expected to be scheduled this fall.  For the next two years, the county must also report to the Justice Department any discrimination complaints against Henrico from future applicants for religious land use.

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