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Woman challenges ban on filming kids near mosque

BLOOMINGTON — A Minnesota woman is challenging a ban on videotaping children at a public playground near a suburban Minneapolis mosque without parental permission.

Sally Ness of Bloomington contends the new Bloomington city ordinance violates her First Amendment rights. Ness is among residents who contend the Dar al-Farooq mosque has disrupted the neighborhood with traffic and noise.

“She has an absolute right as a private citizen to document these complaints and bring them to the city’s attention,” said her attorney, Robert Muise.

Members of the mosque want to stop what they see as intimidating behavior by strangers who show up to photograph or record video of their children.

Ness’ lawsuit against the city, Hennepin County and two police officers argues the filming restrictions are unconstitutional. She wants to continue filming at the park.

Muise said the case is not about race or religion, and that regardless, Ness has a constitutional right to film at public parks.

Bloomington officials said they don’t comment on pending litigation. A federal court hearing is set for early January.

Leaders of the mosque became alarmed this fall when they saw Ness and others photograph children at the adjacent playground, which is used by a charter school, Success Academy.

Success Academy officials said they’re trying to protect children, many of them Somali, who may feel harassed or intimidated. The school is trying to raise money to build its own playground.

In August 2017, Dar al-Farooq was damaged by a pipe bomb. Two members of an Illinois militia group accused in the bombing admitted they hoped to scare Muslims into leaving the U.S. The alleged ringleader has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial. No one was hurt.