Source: Boston Globe
US Attorney Carmen Ortiz on Thursday said she has opened an investigation into whether town officials in Dudley violated the rights of area Muslims when they blocked the construction of an Islamic cemetery in the central Massachusetts community.
Ortiz has assigned the Civil Rights Unit in her office to investigate whether the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester’s right to practice their religious beliefs were infringed on when residents and town officials rejected the group’s plan for an Islamic cemetery earlier this year.
“We are committed to protecting the rights of Americans of all faiths,” Ortiz said in a statement. “All Americans have the right to worship and to bury their loved ones in accordance with their religious beliefs, free from discrimination. ‘’
She said in a statement that the investigation is aimed as assessing “whether there have been violations of federal civil rights laws in connection with the request to establish an Islamic cemetery in Dudley.”
Ortiz said investigators have the authority to look into the issue of potentially discriminatory treatment under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
The town’s Zoning Board ruled last month that the group would need a special permit to build the cemetery on a 55-acre parcel, prompting the group to file its own suit against Dudley officials in state Land Court, the Globe has reported.
The Islamic organization, which is based in Worcester and buries its dead in Enfield, Conn., signed a purchase-and-sale agreement for the Dudley land in January. Leaders of the society, which serves about 350 families, said this more convenient site would have space for 16,000 graves but that only about 10 to 15 burials would occur each year.