Fox Valley Villages Sun: DuPage officials awaiting decision in Irshad case

The 18 DuPage County commissioners and office holders who were sued after they refused to support a Muslim learning center near Naperville are waiting to hear whether the complaint will have its day in court.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmyer presided at an Aug. 5 hearing in Chicago that was called to address the county officials’ motion to dismiss the case. Among other claims, the legal filing submitted by State’s Attorney Joe Birkett contends that the Irshad Learning Center did not meet standards for timely administrative review when its attorney bypassed the state appellate court and filed the federal complaint on April 8. The suit calls for a jury trial.

The Irshad attorney, Kevin Vodak of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Pallmyer asked both sides for additional information about the res judicata assertion, which translates as “a matter (already) judged.” Pallmyer has yet to rule on the motion.

“It’s clearly a complicated set of issues that she has to consider,” Vodak said Tuesday.

According to the CAIR complaint, the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals and 11 County Board members violated Irshad’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they declined to support the required special use permit for operation of a religious institution.

The County Board turned down the application Jan. 12. Tony Michelassi, Jim Healy and John Zediker — who represent Naperville, Aurora and Lisle, including the area where the property is located — were joined by four other board members in supporting the petition.

The 30 DuPage County families who participate in the Islamic organization’s Thursday evening prayer services and Saturday afternoon religious education classes say they need a worship location close to where they live. In March 2008, the group purchased a three-acre parcel on 75th Street east of Naper Boulevard and the 3,600-square-foot house and accessory buildings on the site. While they proceed with their effort, they continue to gather in borrowed space at a Methodist church several miles east of their property.

The organization’s board and its legal representatives spent about a year working to have the request granted, agreeing to modifications intended to address the concerns of neighbors who predicted the center’s operations would hinder their quality of life.

Vodak said work on the case will continue, despite the absence of a decision from Pallmyer.

“Basically she said that we should proceed into discovery,” he said.

The next scheduled court date is status hearing set for 9 a.m. Nov. 2.