HORN LAKE, Miss. — The City of Horn Lake faces a possible lawsuit after city leaders rejected a proposal for a mosque.
Mayor Allen Latimer said he couldn’t talk to FOX13 because he was going into executive session behind closed doors on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, the man behind the proposal, Ray Elk, said he was upset with the mayor and Board of Aldermen’s decision.
“To be treated like this, this is not what I was taught,” said Elk. “This is not how this country was built: on freedom of religion, freedom of speech.”
Elk said back in December of 2019, city leaders seemed supportive when discussing the mosque, but things changed.
Almost two weeks ago, the mayor and Board of Aldermen voted against the proposal in a 5 to 1 vote.
Some expressed concerns about increased traffic, issues with water pressure, and noise from loudspeakers during the mosque’s call to prayer.
However, Elk said there was never a plan to use loudspeakers.
“The neighbors start complaining and coming here and protesting against it,” said Elk.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, one alderman changed his mind. Alderman Charlie Roberts expressed his support for the mosque on Tuesday night.
“I support freedom of religion, and I will stand behind the freedom of religion for everybody,” said Roberts.
People who attended the meeting said they still stand by the Board’s decision.
“I think it’s wrong,” said resident George Dixon. “They applied as a church, and they are not a church. The road is too narrow for that type of business or whatever you want to call it.”
Elk said he is confident he will win the lawsuit against the city because it’s his right to practice religious freedom.
“I think there is a hope, yes. I think when they look at it deeply, they will realize they are making a mistake,” said Elk.
FOX13 made calls to the mayor and Board of Aldermen to figure out what was discussed during the executive session about the lawsuit.
We also checked in with a University of Memphis law professor who said that by denying the property owner permission to build a mosque, Horn Lake may violate federal law.
Professor Steve Mulroy said there are federal laws that said cities must go out of their way to accommodate buildings used for worship.
“An entirely separate issue is there’s a federal law called RLUPA, Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which says that you basically don’t want local land-use decisions getting in the way of a religious practice,” said Mulroy. “So churches and mosques and synagogues you need to bend over backwards to accommodate them.”
Mulroy said the mosque would already have a case because it appears that one of the aldermen made some anti-Muslim statements as the basis for part of the denial of the mosque.