Imagine in your residential neighborhood, there are constant disturbances, traffic problems, late-night events disturbing the peace, conflicts over the use of a public park, all by one organization and complaints to the city and law enforcement are met with a deafening silence.
So one grandma starts videoing various violations, including traffic offenses. Police spring into action and threaten her with a charge of harassment. How can this be?
Sharia in America.
The violators are connected to the Dar al-Farooq mosque (DAF) and its associated school in Bloomington, Minnesota and they said they didn’t like being recorded.
People living near a Minnesota park are fed up with years of violations by a nearby Islamic mosque.
“Friends of Smith Park” (FOSP), an organization of residents living near the Dar al Farooq Mosque (formerly Al Farooq Youth and Family Center, 8201 Park Ave South in Bloomington), presented a “Petition of Redress” to the Bloomington City Council during the July 25, 2016 meeting. In the Petition, the group is asking that the city council enforce Bloomington’s laws by addressing years of violations of the Conditional Use Permit and Joint Use Agreement granted to the Dar al Farooq Mosque in 2011.
The resident’s 18 page petition drafted by attorney Larry Frost outlines years of violations of the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and Joint Use Agreement (JUA) committed by DAF; contending that the City’s lack of CUP and JUA enforcement not only has resulted in
DAF is seriously harming the right to quietly use and enjoy private property. That right is not only recognized as a foundational right in our law, but your Comprehensive Plan requires that quiet use be satisfied in order to grant a CUP in our neighborhood. DAF fails to satisfy the quiet use requirement by:
- Causing noise and light till 2:00AM one month a year;
- DAF scheduling events that are planned to end at midnight;
- DAF hosting an Islamic University when the previous City Manager said in a letter a university was not an allowed use;
- Causing high-speed traffic in excess of what the CUP anticipate every Friday;
- Heavy traffic threatening our kids and older neighbors who prefer retiring in our neighborhood;
- Violating our health laws, including improper disposal of asbestos, garbage left out and others.
- You have privileged DAF over all the other churches in Bloomington. (Resurrection Power Church applied right after DAF. You punished them for DAF’s violations by limiting them to less than full fire code occupancy, based only on Council member conjecture that Resurrection Power Church might someday do something that abused their position, like DAF had done. When Mount Hope church made a land use application to expand, Council member Wilcox openly said that the limits you placed on them were ‘Punishing a good church…because we are paranoid’ that Mt. Hope might become another DAF. The Council put Mt. Hope through the wringer because of DAF.) When you privilege one church and punish another, you violate RLUIPA on its face. There are several other churches who have valid RLUIPA complaints you would be hard put to defend after these statement made in open Council meetings.
- You put us at risk when you didn’t even ask DAF for the certificate of insurance the JUA requires they give you. When we asked about it, your emails show that neither you nor our civil servants followed up and made DAF prove they have insurance. Because you have not answered our requests for information yet, we don’t even know if DAF has insurance. A lawsuit by someone who is injured at Smith Park is potentially tremendously expensive. If DAF did not have insurance, you put us at hazard by once again not enforcing a provision of the JUA.
- Your staff accused those of us who spoke out of being ‘anti-islamic’ when all we ask is that you enforce the law. This makes many of citizens afraid to speak up, and that is wrong.
Traffic and parking problems around the Dar al Farooq Mosque
(Minneapolis, Minnesota)—On November 12, 2019, the American Freedom Law Center filed a civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on behalf of Sally Ness. The lawsuit alleges that the City of Bloomington, two City police officers, and the Hennepin County Attorney violated Ness’s rights protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments by threatening to enforce local and state laws against her for filming public information exposing various zoning and other violations committed by a local mosque and its associated school, both of which are located in Ness’s neighborhood.
AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel Robert Muise explained:
“The First Amendment fully protects our client’s right to gather information through photographing and videotaping. And this is particularly the case here because she is filming public matters related to a public controversy. As the courts have explained, the right to freedom of speech includes not only the actual expression of one’s views, thoughts, opinions, and other information concerning matters of public interest, but also non-expressive conduct that intrinsically facilitates one’s ability to exercise free speech rights, including efforts to gather evidence and information by photographing and videotaping. Here, the City and County seek to make a crime out of what under the Constitution cannot be a crime. Their threats of prosecution are aimed directly at activity protected by the First Amendment.”
For many years, Ness has been documenting the public controversy surrounding the Dar al-Farooq mosque (DAF) and its associated school, the Success Academy, both of which are located in her neighborhood in the City of Bloomington, Minnesota. Ness would often film zoning and other violations committed by DAF and the Success Academy that are disruptive to the neighborhood. Ness would publicly disseminate this information via a blog and Facebook page. She would also bring these violations to the attention of the City, which would largely ignore her concerns and the similar concerns of her neighbors.
This past August, City police officers confronted Ness and warned her that because people associated with DAF and the Success Academy felt “threatened” by her filming she should “stop” because she could be charged with violating the Minnesota harassment statute. Per the City’s official police report: “Ness was advised that she could be charged with harassment if the parents and principal felt intimidated by her actions.”
On October 28, the City, in an effort to appease DAF and Success Academy patrons who object to Ness’s filming, passed a City ordinance providing that “No person shall intentionally take a photograph or otherwise record a child without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.” Because Ness seeks to expose, among other violations, DAF’s and the Success Academy’s noncompliant and overuse of a local City park—a park in her neighborhood that she would often attempt to use with her grandchildren—her information gathering efforts include, quite necessarily, photographing and videotaping the use of the public park by children associated with DAF and the Success Academy. Additionally, Ness has taken pictures of students being dropped off to Success Academy and weekend school to document the noncompliant number of students attending the schools and the unsafe and noncompliant drop off conditions. There is no doubt that this newly minted and unusual City ordinance was directed at her.
On October 30, at the request of a City detective, Ness met with the detective and two other City officials. The detective informed Ness that she is under investigation by the County for allegedly violating the Minnesota harassment statute due to her filming and documenting of the activities of DAF and the Success Academy. This latest threat intended to intimidate and silence Ness was the last straw, prompting the filing of this lawsuit.
AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi concluded:
“If you publicly criticize Islam, it is called ‘hate speech.’ If you exercise your First Amendment right to collect evidence of a mosque violating zoning and other laws via photographing and videotaping and expose this evidence to the public, you can be prosecuted for ‘harassment.’ This case is another example of the encroachment on our liberties when Islam is involved.”
The lawsuit asks the court to declare the Minnesota harassment statute and the City’s newly enacted ordinance prohibiting filming in a City park unconstitutional and to enjoin their enforcement, particularly as applied to restrict Ness’s First Amendment activity. Ness is also seeking the recovery of her attorneys’ fees and costs.
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