WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious minorities—especially Muslims—figure prominently in religious freedom investigations by the Justice Department, a new report shows.
“Jewish synagogues and schools, African-American churches, and, increasingly, Muslim mosques and schools are particularly vulnerable to discriminatory zoning actions taken by local officials, often under community pressure,” the 14-page report stated.
The department released the report Wednesday (Sept. 22), the 10th anniversary of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The law, which passed with bipartisan support and the advocacy of a range of faith groups, aims to protect both religious liberty in zoning matters and free exercise of religion for prisoners and residents of government-run nursing homes.
Of 51 RLUIPA-related investigations opened in the last decade, 16 involved Muslims, Jews, or Buddhists. Half of the department’s probes of land-use violations involving Christians involved racial or ethnic minorities.
This year, against a rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric after an Islamic community center was proposed near Ground Zero, the department has opened eight cases of possible RLUIPA-related discrimination against Muslims since May. A total of 18 cases of possible bias against Muslims have been monitored by the department since the 9/11 attacks.
“This fact is a sober reminder that, even in the 21st century, challenges to true religious liberty remain,” the report said.