Law expert says Mid-South city could be out-of-bounds after denying mosque

HORN LAKE, Miss. — Leaders in a North Mississippi city are set to talk again about whether to allow a mosque.

A University of Memphis Law Professor and former Department of Justice Civil Rights attorney said Horn Lake appears to be in the wrong by denying the building near Horn Lake Road and Church Road.

RELATED: Horn Lake alderman has change of heart after voting against mosque

FOX13 looked into the legal fight the city could be in for.

University of Memphis law professor Steve Mulroy told us that from the start it looks like the city of Horn Lake was out of bounds.

“Seems the mosque has some grounds that anti-Muslim bias is playing a role in the land use rejection. First of all, one of the aldermen is quoted as making anti-Muslim comments as part of the basis for his decision.” Mulroy said.

Mulroy also said the board’s rejecting the mosque on the grounds that it would create traffic and water issues seemed odd.

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“In light of the fact that they were also talking about alternate uses which it has been zoned for which would be apartment buildings which would also have traffic and water issues,” Mulroy said.

Mulroy also said that federal law also comes into play when you start talking about using property for religious reasons.

“An entirely separate issue is there is a federal law called RLUIPA, Religious Land Use Institutionalized Persons Act, which says that you basically don’t want local land-use decisions getting in the way of religious practice. So churches and mosques and synagogues, you need to bend over backward to accommodate them,” Mulroy said.

The owner of the property has told FOX13 he plans to take the city to court for violating his freedom of religion.

“There are probably other ways they could work this out with the mosque rather than just saying flatly you can’t build it at all,” Mulroy said.

Horn Lake Aldermen voted the plan down last month, but as we told you one alderman had a change of heart.

FOX13 spent the day speaking to religious leaders and neighbors about the project.

Vincent Cross lives on property that backs up to where the mosque would be built. Even though the man who proposed the mosque said there won’t be a call to prayer over a loudspeaker, Cross said that’s part of the reason he doesn’t want it

“I think it is a terrible idea. A mosque needs to be off away from the community. People don’t want to hear those loud noises three times a day. That going on in a residential area is not what is wanted here.” Cross said.

A number of Horn Lake church leaders told FOX13 they support the mosque, but they didn’t want to go on camera and say that. They also told us that they are praying for the aldermen.

Johnathan Crutcher lives within a mile of where the mosque would be built. He said he isn’t sure what all the fuss is about.

“Freedom of religion. So if they want to build a mosque down here I see no problem with it at all.” Crutcher said.

But Cross believed it was a bad idea for the area.

“Unwanted attention. These are quiet people living back here. They don’t want all that traffic running through here. There are kids out playing in the streets back here, it’s not the best place for a mosque,” Cross said.