On December 9, 2019, we filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the high court to grant review in this important case. Our petition presents two critical questions for the Court’s review:
- Does a city council rule prohibiting private citizens from making disparaging comments about religion when speaking during the public comment period of a council meeting convened for the purpose of deciding whether to permit the construction of a mosque via a consent decree violate the First Amendment?
- Can a city council enter into a consent decree in federal court that fails to comply with local and state zoning laws when the consent decree was not necessary to rectify the violation of federal law?
As we argue in the petition:
This case involves a politically charged subject: a challenge to the City Council’s approval via a consent decree of the construction of a large mosque in a largely Chaldean Christian neighborhood in the City. But the controversial nature of this case should not be the basis for this Court to deny review. Rather, it is all the more reason to grant review. . . . Indeed, it is often within the context of politically charged and controversial matters that constitutional freedoms require the greatest clarification and protection.
In 2017, we filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Sterling Heights, Michigan, and its Mayor, Michael C. Taylor, alleging violations of federal and state law. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of seven residents of the City who oppose the construction of a mosque in their largely Chaldean Christian neighborhood.
It was evident then as it is now that the American Islamic Community Center (AICC) wanted to “plant the flag” in this Chaldean Christian community by building a huge mosque. This is largely a community of Christians who fled Iraq because they or family members were subjected to violence and abuse from ISIS.
In February 2017, the City decided not to defend against the specious claims of discrimination made by AICC and the Obama Department of Justice in their lawsuits filed against the City, but instead to capitulate and enter into a Consent Judgment that granted AICC permission to build the mosque even though doing so violated local and state zoning regulations.
The decision to enter into the Consent Judgment was made during a City Council meeting held in February 2017. During this public meeting, the Mayor enforced a content- and viewpoint-based speech restriction that prohibited private citizens, including our clients, from making any comments that the Mayor deemed critical of Islam, in direct violation of the First Amendment!
The district court ruled in favor of the City, and in an opinion fraught with errors, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed on August 14, 2019. Our request for en banc (full court) review by the Sixth Circuit was denied, prompting the filing of our petition in the Supreme Court.
As stated in the cert petition,
Review by this Court is necessary because the Sixth Circuit committed precedent-setting errors of exceptional public importance and issued an opinion that directly conflicts with this Court’s precedent and the well-established precedent of other federal courts.
Please keep this exceedingly important case in your prayers.