The New York mosque facing the highest court in the nation is facing an unprecedented challenge from the city’s largest religious organization, claiming the state government’s interpretation of a 1993 law violates its religious freedom.
The American-Islamic Council of New York (AICNY) has filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming it overstepped its constitutional powers to govern New York’s largest mosque.
The lawsuit also argues that the city is violating the New York Constitution by imposing on Muslims who worship in the building their duties to maintain public order.
“It is a clear violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees the free exercise of religion, to compel the organization that is the seat of worship in our city to violate the law of its state, which is a law that clearly and unambiguously requires it to protect public order,” said Ibrahim Hooper, legal director for the AICNY.
“We believe the law is clear on its face, and that its constitutionality must be decided by the state’s highest court.”
The city’s Department of Buildings has been investigating complaints from residents who have complained of increased noise and crime in the mosque.
The city said in a statement that it is committed to working with the AACNY and other community members to resolve the legal challenge and will “continue to engage with them to resolve these concerns.”
“We remain committed to ensuring that our city is a welcoming and safe place for all people, regardless of their faith,” said City Councilman James Oddo, who chairs the committee that oversees the city.
“The AICN is a vibrant and growing community of Muslims and faith leaders.
Our goal is to protect our community and its unique religious freedoms.”
The American Islamic Council of America is one of a dozen or so major religious groups to have sued the city in federal court since it passed the law in 1993.
The law, which became effective in November, states that religious buildings are required to have security measures such as bullet-proof glass, fire alarms and smoke detectors, and to be separated from the public at all times.
It also requires them to maintain a “reasonable degree of separation” from the rest of the city so that “no person of any race, color, creed, sex, national origin, age, disability, religion, or sexual orientation” can attend.
The AACN has been fighting the law since it was passed, alleging it is unconstitutional and violates its First Amendment right to worship.
A federal judge ruled in December that the law was unconstitutional.
The mosque at 50 East 58th Street, which houses the Islamic Center of New Jersey, was originally built in 1894 and has remained open since then, but a lawsuit filed by AICNJ in October said the building has been plagued by vandalism and fires.
The group said in the lawsuit that the state has not complied with the law and is refusing to provide the required security measures.
The New York State Department of Building Inspection has said that the building was in compliance with the 1993 law and has been inspected several times since the law took effect, but the department has not yet determined whether it will comply with the new law.