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Judge rules Dakota County township must allow Islamic Cemetery

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A Dakota County judge has ruled in favor of an Islamic cemetery that a township denied permits for in 2014.

Judge David Knutson's ruling follows a lawsuit against Castle Rock by Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association and the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Minnesota (CAIR-MN, a Muslim advocacy group), asking the U.S. Department of Justice to "investigate allegations of anti-Muslim bias."

A news release from CAIR-MN says Castle Rock's rules initially allowed a cemetery to be built. But months later, the town changed their zoning ordinances so that a cemetery was no longer allowed.

During the 2014 board meeting, Vice Chairman Russ Zellmer said he worried the the 73-acre cemetery would not be maintained. He also voiced concerns that an exclusive cemetery would be discriminatory and that the town would lose tax revenue, according to KSTP. 

But Judge Knutsen said the argument about taxes wasn't rational, the station reports. The judgment says the township didn't provide any written findings or factual basis for denying the cemetery.

With that, the judge called Castle Rock's efforts to keep the Islamic cemetery from being built "arbitrary and capricious," according to a news release from CAIR-MN.

Castle Rock will need to issue a conditional-use permit for the cemetery.

The Pioneer Press says Minnesota currently has two Islamic cemeteries. They're located in Roseville and Burnsville, and they're almost at full capacity.

The Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association plans to use the first 20 acres for 35,000 burials. And the association says the large cemetery will meet the needs of the states Islamic community for 200 years, the paper reports.

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