Feds sue Stafford County over law blocking Islamic cemetery
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against a Virginia county for “imposing restrictive zoning requirements” that blocked an Islamic nonprofit from building a cemetery.
The suit, filed June 19, argues that Stafford County violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act by imposing overly restrictive regulations on the religious practice of All Muslim Association of America Inc.
The Virginia-based nonprofit runs the country’s largest Muslim cemetery, which also is the only one in the state.
The cemetery provides affordable burial services to the region’s low-income Muslims. But it has run into unexpected hurdles as it sought to expand to add a second graveyard.
“We are running out of space, and we desperately need this new cemetery,” said Mossadaq Chughtai, an AMAA board member. “All we want to do is help people without means get a burial in accordance with their faith. We followed all the rules and worked to appease Stafford County, but they still refuse to let us build our cemetery.”
In May 2015, AMAA purchased 45 acres in Stafford County for a new cemetery. The county’s cemetery ordinances permitted the use at the time, and the land was already zoned appropriately.