Culpeper County Permit Denial For Proposed Islamic Center Sparks Controversy

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 WTOP News, April 6, 2016

WASHINGTON ó A decision by Culpeper County lawmakers to deny a permit request for a proposed Islamic center Tuesday at the countyís Board of Supervisors meeting is stirring up controversy.Mohammad Nawabe, a representative of the Islamic Center of Culpeper, applied for a pump-and-haul septic permit since the proposed site on Rixeyville Road doesnít have access to public utilities and the soil doesnít support a traditional septic tank. But his request was denied in a 4-3 vote Tuesday morning.

While some Culpeper County residents applauded the Board of Supervisorsí decision to reject the permit, Nawabe says the decision is based on religious bigotry and discrimination.

Nawabe, who has two businesses in Culpeper, told the Richmond-Times Dispatch that heís exploring legal action.

Since 1995, the board has approved 18 out of the 19 pump-and-haul permits that were considered. But the supervisors who rejected the permit say the special sewage permits are only for hardship cases where the owner has no other option. Since the center hasnít closed a deal on the land yet, the county says it can find another site to purchase.

Nawabe told the board in a previous meeting that the center will be used for prayer twice a week for a couple of hours by about 15 attendees.

Supervisor Sue Hansohn, who voted to support the permit, says she has received complaints from residents expressing fears about the Islamic center.

ìThe majority of the calls and emails I had was because of the religion not because itís a pump-and-haul or environmental reasons,î she says.

ìI donít think, in our country, we should turn down somebody because of religion reasons. Weíve never done that,î Hansohn says. ìThatís what we are based on ó that religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom to have a business,î she adds.

WTOPís Mark Lewis contributed to this report.