(CN) – The U.S. Justice Department sued Culpeper County, Virginia, for blocking the construction of a mosque on property it sold to local Muslims.
The federal government claims county officials violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act by denying a sewage permit to the Islamic Center of Culpeper.
Denial of the permit effectively killed the mosque project. The land it was to be built on is located in a zoning district where religious land use is permitted.
The Justice Department says by denying the mosque the critical permit, the county imposed a substantial burden on the congregation’s exercise of religion.
The permit in question, known as a “pump and haul” permit, would have allowed the Islamic Center to transport sewage from the property to a point of disposal.
The county had told the congregation that such a permit was necessary because its soil, like much soil in the area, could not support a septic system.
The complaint alleges that since 1992, the county has considered 26 applications and never denied a pump and haul permit to a commercial or religious use prior to deny one for the planned Islamic Center.