Culpeper vote paves way for construction of Islamic prayer house

WASHINGTON — A vote by the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors this week paves the way for the construction of a new Islamic prayer center in the Virginia community that was delayed for about a year due to lawsuits over allegations of religious discrimination.

During a Tuesday meeting, supervisors voted 4 to 3 to approve a settlement that would allow the Islamic Center of Culpeper to build the facility on an acre of land along Virginia Route 229.

The ICC was unable to move forward with its construction plans because the board denied its request last year for a pump-and-haul sewage permit. The rural residential property on Rixelyville Road was not suitable for a traditional septic system, supervisors said.

Following the permitting decision, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the county, alleging religious discrimination. The ICC also sued earlier this year. The two sides were advised to come to an agreement after an initial federal court hearing.

Tuesday’s vote represents a settlement with the county, allowing the ICC to obtain its permit.  The county will also pay the ICC $10,000 for expenses.

The agreement, which still has to be approved by a federal judge, states that the county and the ICC are glad to resolve the matter expeditiously and without further litigation.

When supervisors first denied the sewage permit in April 2016, they noted that they had received a lot of negative feedback from their constituents about Islam.

“The majority of the calls and emails I had was (sic) because of the religion,” Supervisor Sue Hansohn said.

However, she and other supervisors insisted that their vote denying the permit had nothing to do with religion and was due to the site not meeting the proper requirements.

“When we’re elected, we’re supposed to support the rules and regulations and the law,” Hansohn added.

According to Culpeper County Administrator John Egertson, the ICC permit application stated that the estimated use of the prayer center is “approximately twice per week for a couple of hours with approximately 15 attendees.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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