Kamal Anwiya Youkhanna; Wafa Catcho; Marey Jabbo; Debi Rrasi; Jeffrey Norgrove; Megan McHugh, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
City of Sterling Heights; Michael C. Taylor, individually and in his official capacity as Mayor, City of Sterling Heights, Michigan, Defendants-Appellees.
Argued: April 30, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:17-cv-10787-Gershwin
A. Drain, District Judge.
Joseph Muise, AMERICAN FREEDOM LAW CENTER, Ann Arbor,
Michigan, for Appellants.
D. Kaszubski, O'REILLY RANCILIO P.C., Sterling Heights,
Michigan, for Appellees.
Joseph Muise, AMERICAN FREEDOM LAW CENTER, Ann Arbor,
Michigan, David Yerushalmi, AMERICAN FREEDOM LAW CENTER,
Washington, D.C., for Appellants.
D. Kaszubski, Nathan D. Petrusak, O'REILLY RANCILIO P.C.,
Sterling Heights, Michigan, for Appellees.
Before: MERRITT, MOORE, and WHITE, Circuit Judges.
NELSON MOORE, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
case arises from the settlement of another case. In 2015, the
American Islamic Community Center (AICC) applied for zoning
permission to build a mosque in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
The City's planning commission denied AICC's request,
and AICC sued. The City decided to settle the lawsuit, which
alleged violations of the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the First
Amendment, and it negotiated a consent judgment that allowed
AICC to build the mosque. This lawsuit challenges the
validity of that consent judgment, along with the legality of
actions taken by the City and the Mayor during the City
Council meeting at which the consent judgment was approved.
The district court granted defendants' motion for summary
judgment, and we AFFIRM.
efforts to build a mosque on Fifteen Mile Road in Sterling
Heights, Michigan spawned two rounds of litigation. This is
The Sterling Heights Planning Commission Denies AICC's
8, 2015, AICC applied for permission to build a mosque on
Fifteen Mile Road in a neighborhood that is otherwise zoned
for residential use. Appellant Br. at 4-5; Youkhanna v.
City of Sterling Heights, 332 F.Supp.3d 1058, 1062 (E.D.
Mich. 2018). The Sterling Heights Planning Commission met in
August to consider AICC's application.
Youkhanna, 332 F.Supp.3d at 1062. Despite a city
planner's testimony that the mosque complied with all
zoning criteria and was appropriately placed on a major
thoroughfare, the proposal faced resistance and its approval
was postponed. Id. at 1062-63. One month later, the
Commission voted down AICC's updated application, giving
the following reasons:
• "the location and height of the mosque
interferes with and discourages the appropriate development
and use of adjacent land and buildings,
• lack of size compatibility with established long
term development patterns,
• a likely shortage of off-street parking when the
principal and ancillary uses are combined,
• additional parking spaces are required,
• and the scale of the mosque is not harmonious with
the neighboring areas."
Id.; R. 67-5 (Sept. 2015 Planning Commission Staff
Report at 5) (Page ID #1658).
AICC Sues, and Sterling Heights Settles
then sued the City, alleging violations of RLUIPA, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000cc et seq., and the First Amendment.
Youkhanna, 332 F.Supp.3d at 1063. The Department of
Justice also opened an investigation into the City's
denial of AICC's application. The DOJ alleged that
Jeffrey Norgrove, the commissioner who moved to deny
AICC's application, had publicly demonstrated anti-Muslim
and had "improperly influenced the other
City denied wrongdoing. Id. at 1064. Eventually, the
parties (AICC and Sterling Heights) reached a settlement
giving AICC "special land use approval" to build
the mosque, subject to certain conditions, and the district
court entered a consent judgment. R. 67-20 (Consent Judgment
at 3) (Page ID #1832).
order to sign the settlement, however, the City Council had
to vote its approval. Youkhanna, 332 F.Supp.3d at
1064. The meeting during which the Council considered the
settlement, which was recorded on video, was open to the
public and well attended. Video at 1:37:49-41:02 (Mayor
Taylor: "We have 181 seats, I believe, in this Council
Chamber; every seat is taken (save for maybe one or two) and
we also have overflow of at least 25 to 30 or more in the
vestibule."). The media were in attendance also, and the
meeting was streamed on the City's website and YouTube
channel and was broadcast on live television.
Youkhanna, 332 F.Supp.3d at 1068.
the announcement that the Council would be taking up the
agenda item of the consent judgment, the attorney for the
City, Ann McClorey McLaughlin, explained the terms of the
agreement and the City's reasons for settling the case.
Video at 1:42:40. Mayor Taylor then said the floor would open
to public comment, although comments would be limited to two
minutes and subject to the following ground rules:
Speakers will be required to stay on point. Your comments
during this agenda item must be related to this agenda item.
This agenda item is to consider settlements, consent order,
and consent judgments in these two cases . . . . If you fail
to abide by the Council's Rules, you will be called out
of order . . . and you will be asked to go back to your seat.
If you do not go back to your seat, we will recess and you
will be removed from the auditorium. So please don't make
us do that . . . . Outbursts from the audience can be grounds
for being called out of order . . . . So again, let's
just please be as respectful as we can of each person. We do
not need any comments about anybody's religion, that is
not the purpose of ...