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Appeals court rules in favor of Carmel mosque

Posted at 7:13 AM, Mar 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-13 09:56:12-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A Muslim congregation has won another round in its effort to build a mosque in Carmel, over the objection of some who live in the area.

A three-judge panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that gave opponents of the mosque more time to challenge a zoning board ruling in its favor. The unanimous ruling sends the case back to Hamilton County Superior Court.

Five homeowners sued the city of Carmel last March, less than two months after the Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-2 in favor of the proposed mosque from the Al Salam Foundation. The foundation has no mosque in the area and says members have been worshiping in a rented space that is so small, many had to pray outside in the parking lot. They want to build their Islamic Life Center near Shelborne Road and West 141st Street.

READ | Legal challenge filed in Carmel mosque decision

Those opposed to the building say it would be too big for what is largely a residential neighborhood – they say they worry about noise and traffic. Some Muslims believe there would have been no opposition had the congregation been of another faith.

After a packed public meeting that was moved to Carmel’s Palladium to accommodate the crowd, the zoning board approved the mosque in February 2018. The lawsuit challenging the ruling was filed last March, but the city says the homeowners missed a deadline of 30-days after their suit was filed to submit further legal briefs on why it thought the zoning board’s ruling should be overturned.

A Hamilton Superior Court judge ruled that the court had the discretion to extend the deadline. But the state appeals panel disagreed, saying the judge cited a state law that was overturned by the legislature in 2011. “(B)ecause the Remonstrators have failed to comply with the statutory requirements for filing the Board record, they cannot receive consideration of their petition, and the trial court erred in denying the Board’s motion to dismiss,” Judge Margaret Robb wrote in her opinion. Judges Patricia Riley and James Kirsch concurred in the unanimous ruling.

Juvaria Khan, senior staff attorney at Muslim Advocates, who is handling the case issued the following statement on the ruling.

“We at Muslim Advocates are so proud of our clients, the Al Salam Foundation, Inc., who have shown incredible strength, sense of community, and love for their city. Their situation is, sadly, far too common. We’ve seen small but organized groups challenging permits for mosques and Muslim cemeteries nationwide and we are proud that we could help our clients assert their basic right to worship here. Thanks to the hard work of the Al Salam Foundation and support from their community, Muslims in Carmel will finally have a place of worship at home.”

READ | Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals approves special permit for Islamic Life Center and Mosque | Proposed mosque causing controversy in Carmel | Hundreds gather to debate proposed Carmel mosque, second hearing scheduled because of turnout