A Muslim nonprofit is asking a Virginia county to waive an ordinance that essentially blocks the group's proposed cemetery and has led to a federal investigation into religious discrimination.
Citing the variance request filed Dec. 21, The Free Lance-Star reports that the Stafford County Board of Supervisors approved changes to the county's cemetery ordinance in 2016, a year after the All Muslim Association of America purchased a 29-acre (12-hectare) plot. The ordinance was adopted after neighbors raised concerns about well contamination, and the regulations are stricter than state code.
In September, the Board of Supervisors voted to maintain the ordinance. The group could appeal to the circuit court if the request is denied.
The newspaper reports that in December 2016, supervisors voted to prohibit new cemeteries within 900 feet of private wells, reservoirs and streams that drain into reservoirs. Proponents of the ordinance say legitimate health concerns, not religion, was the motivation for the change.
The Department of Justice launched an investigation in April into county zoning law's treatment of religious uses.