A Virginia county has discriminated against a Muslim congregation on religious grounds by halting the group's plans to build a small mosque on its land, the US Justice Department said in a lawsuit filed on Monday.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, alleges Culpeper County violated federal law when it refused in April to grant the Islamic Center of Culpeper's permit application for a sewage system on its land.
The Justice Department said in its lawsuit that the county's decision amounted to religious discrimination and imposed a "substantial burden" on the Islamic Center of Culpeper's exercise of religion and discriminated against its members based on religion.
"The Constitution and federal law specifically protect the freedom of religious communities to establish houses of worship," Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
The lawsuit comes as Muslim and immigrant rights advocates voice concerns over religious discrimination in the United States after statements by President-elect Donald Trump about immigration and other issues. Trump has called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.
Representatives for Culpeper County and the Islamic Center of Culpeper did not respond to requests for comment.
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