Naperville Sun: Naperville Islamic center suit continuing

The lawsuit naming DuPage County for its refusal to allow an Islamic prayer center just east of Naperville is moving ahead after attempts to settle the issue apparently fell short.

Representatives for the Irshad Learning Center and DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin will appear before U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmyer Aug. 17, launching the formal fact-finding phase of the case.

The Islamic organization’s board members, most of whom live in Naperville or Lisle, retained the Chicago chapter of the nonprofit Council on American-Islamic Relations to pursue an appeal after the County Board in January 2010 turned down their request for a conditional use permit to operate a religious institution on a three-acre site facing 75th Street just east of the city line.

Neighbors of the property, which was formerly used for a preschool, staunchly opposed the plan. They asserted it would hinder their quality of life. Some said they did not believe the planners’ claims on the permit application that the site would be used by no more than 100 people, and on a limited schedule.

When the plan was spurned, Irshad’s suit contended the group’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments had been violated.

“The case will be proceeding into discovery, due to our efforts of conducting settlement negotiations being unfruitful,” Amina Sharif, CAIR-Chicago’s communications coordinator, wrote in an email after a hearing in Pallmyer’s courtroom Thursday morning.

Berlin spokesman Paul Darrah said both sides would comply with the judge’s order that they submit a new discovery schedule within seven days.

Initially the complaint named 18 DuPage officials, including all seven members of the Zoning Board of Appeals, which unanimously turned down the proposal, and the 11 County Board members who voted against the application. Pallmyer in March excused the itemized defendants, ruling that the appointed and elected officials enjoy “absolute quasi-judicial immunity,” but declined the county’s request for full dismissal of the case.