Chicago Sun-Times: Irshad Islamic center case delayed again

Representatives for each side were scheduled to submit responses by Monday to motions for summary judgment filed by both parties. The deadline for turning in that paperwork to Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois was moved to Wednesday.

“There will then be replies filed by October 24, 2012,” Kevin Vodak, litigation director for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, wrote in an email. “Judge Pallmeyer will either rule on the motions in writing or schedule a hearing for additional arguments.”

Although the initial complaint demanded a jury trial, both sides filed motions in August for summary judgment. If granted, it will enable those involved to avoid the additional expense and time in the protracted case.

The suit stems from the county’s rejection in January 2010 of a request from the Irshad board for a permit to operate a religious facility in a former day care center on 75th Street east of Naper Boulevard. Included in the complaint is an assertion that the county deprived Irshad of its First Amendment and due process rights when it turned down the request with a 10-7 vote.

The filing cites provisions under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 that it asserts were violated by the board decision.

Seventeen County Board and Zoning Board of Appeals members who opposed the request were among those named in the original suit, but Pallmeyer last year excused the individual defendants, saying they enjoy “absolute quasi-judicial immunity.”

Attorneys for both parties have spent much of the past 2 1/2 years gathering depositions from those named in the initial complaint. The office of DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin, which is representing the county in the case, had no comment on the case this week.

The Irshad center’s board, comprised of Naperville and Lisle residents, wants a permanent nearby site for its three dozen families, who now gather in borrowed space at a local church. Court documents indicate that the Irshad board bought the property understanding that their use would be subject to the same regulations that applied to the child care facility.

A second suit in process that accuses the county of religious bias against a Muslim group is a complaint from the Islamic Center of the Western Suburbs. That organization filed a suit in August that also alleges its rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act were violated when the board earlier this year declined to grant a permit for a worship center in a former home on Army Trail Road near West Chicago.

In both cases, residents near the sites had turned out to air their opposition to the plans, saying they anticipated problems with traffic, noise, possible flooding and other issues.