Daily Herald: Islamic group seeking compensation from DuPage

DuPage County could be forced to pay unspecified monetary damages now that a federal judge has overturned the county board’s rejection of a planned Islamic education facility near Naperville.

The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which filed suit against DuPage on behalf of administrators from the Irshad Learning Center, is praising U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer for reversing the DuPage County Board’s January 2010 decision.

Pallmeyer found in her ruling late last week that the county board made an “arbitrary and capricious” decision by denying a conditional-use permit for the Irshad Learning Center, which bought a property at 25W030 75th St. near Naperville.

“Protections for religious freedom are alive and well,” Kevin Vodak, CAIR-Chicago’s litigation director, said Monday. “There are protections under federal law that we need to respect.”

Unless circumstances change, Pallmeyer wrote, the county board is expected to order the issuance of the conditional-use permit so the education center can open in what used to be a house.

But the legal battle won’t end there.

Vodak says the Irshad Learning Center is seeking “appropriate compensation” from DuPage to pay for the group’s legal fees and expenses related to the property dating back to at least 2010.

“Irshad has had to maintain it,” Vodak said. “They’ve had to pay the property taxes on it because they were denied the permit.”

The group also has been paying to rent space in a Woodridge church.

Vodak said he didn’t have an estimate for how much the group wants DuPage to pay. The compensation issue could be resolved through a settlement or it could require a jury trial, Vodak said.

Meanwhile, representatives for the county board and state’s attorney’s office declined to comment. The county could appeal Pallmeyer’s ruling.

When they denied the permit in 2010, most county board members said they were concerned about the operation of the facility in a residential neighborhood.

Judge Pallmeyer, however, found no evidence that the center would impact public safety or traffic congestion, while its potential impact on property values would be “merely speculative,” she said.

Vodak said the center’s primary activities will happen on Thursday evenings and during the day on Saturdays. Most of the residents who will use the facility live in Naperville and surrounding towns.