A fight over a religious group’s request to build a cemetery in Farmersville ended Tuesday.
The Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas announced an agreement with city of Farmersville to resolve allegations it violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 when, in July 2017, it denied an application by the Islamic Association of Collin County to build a cemetery.
“There is no place in our community for religious discrimination,” U.S. Attorney Joe Brown said in a statement released to the media by his office. “Our office is committed to protecting religious freedom.”
Farmersville Mayor Randy Rice did not immediately respond to an email from the Herald Democrat Tuesday seeking a comment on the settlement.
“Federal law protects the rights of all religious communities to buy or rent land for religious purposes including places of worship, religious schools, charitable activities, and cemeteries without discrimination or the imposition of unwarranted burdens,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, of the Civil Rights Division, said. “The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce this important right.”
The settlement agreement resolves a lawsuit the United States filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. After Farmersville denied the Islamic Association’s application to build a religious cemetery, the United States opened an investigation of Farmersville’s actions in September 2017. In August 2018, the United States notified Farmersville that it had concluded that Farmersville had violated RLUIPA and intended to file suit, and offered Farmersville an opportunity to negotiate a resolution. In September 2018, Farmersville and the Islamic Association entered into a separate agreement allowing for the approval of the cemetery and in December 2018, Farmersville approved the Islamic Association’s application to develop the land as a cemetery.