Naperville Sun: American-Islamic group sues officials

The Council on American and Islamic Relations sued DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom and several other county officials Thursday over the refusal to grant a permit to build an Islamic learning center.

Alleging violations of the First Amendment (free exercise of religion, speech and assembly), the 14th Amendment (equal protection) and the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, Chicago-CAIR is charging that the county unfairly discriminated against the proposed Irshad Learning Center, an Islamic institution slated to be built on 75th Street between Wehrli Drive and Naper Boulevard in Lisle.

“Irshad was substantially burdened by procedures put in place,” CAIR attorney Kevin Vodak said in a telephone interview of the process that Irshad went through to obtain a conditional permit to build the center. The suit, filed in the Northern Illinois District of the U.S. District Court, also names the 10 County Board members who voted against issuing the conditional permit Jan. 12 and the entire Board of Zoning Appeals.

Vodak maintains that Irshad was treated differently than not only other religious institutions, but many secular institutions as well.

“DuPage County needs to be held accountable for this violation of state and federal law,” Vodak said.

Vodak indicated that comments made by ZBA members and protesters at County Board meetings left no doubt in his mind that religious bigotry played a part in denying Irshad the conditional permit it sought.

While an online survey conducted by The Sun showed that slightly more than half the respondents would be more comfortable with a non-Muslim group conducting operations on the site, Naperville’s three County Board members all voted to approve the permit.

Although no members of Chicago-CAIR have ever been linked to any criminal activity, the national organization was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the terror-related case United States v. the Holy Land Foundation.

DuPage County officials have yet to comment on the suit.

“It’s a pending legal matter and we don’t comment on that,” county spokesman Jason Gerwig said.

The DuPage County state’s attorney’s office also withheld comment. “We have not yet seen the complaint,” said Paul Darrah