Board reverses self, approves Muslim cemetery

Published 9:15 am Friday, March 17, 2017

LINDSTROM  — The Chisago County Board has granted a cemetery permit to a group of Bosnian Muslims, reversing its prior decision to deny the project in the face of a federal investigation into possible religious discrimination and the threat of a lawsuit.

The board voted 4-0 on Wednesday to approve the permit after the board’s attorney warned that the county would face religious discrimination claims by the group and the federal government.

“I believe the county will lose that litigation, which will be time-consuming and expensive — and there is no insurance coverage for any Department of Justice inquiry. As depositions of yourself and your staff begin, costs will roll up exponentially,” Paul Reuvers said.

Email newsletter signup

The Islamic Community of Bosniaks of Minnesota wants to build the cemetery south of Lindstrom.

The board denied the group a permit in December, even though the county’s planning commission endorsed the project.

The group threatened to sue, and the Justice Department said March 1 that it was investigating the matter.

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he’s happy to see a positive resolution.

Some who live in this rural area north of Minneapolis opposed the Muslim group’s arrival.

Commissioner Mike Robinson, who voted in favor of the project both times, said some commenters “seemed like they were going more against religion than right and wrong. There was a lot of meanness that came out on Facebook. And it was just a frustrating deal.”

Only four of the five commissioners were on hand for the vote. Lora Walker was seriously injured Saturday in a head-on crash that killed the other driver.