Does it make sense to have a religious institution locate in the heart of the city’s business district?
Yes, we know there is a delicate balance between zoning laws geared for maximum commercial development and our constitutional right to practice religion without government interference.
And there is an obscure law that congress passed in 2000 that really ties the hands of communities in restricting where religious centers can locate. The law is called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act.
That law actually gives more rights to religious centers than other developments. Look it up. It’s a horrible law that needs to be struck down by the Supreme Court immediately.
Back to Hamtramck. Last week, the Zoning Board of Appeals was faced with two requests to set up mosques, one at the former Orlikowski Funeral Home on Holbrook and another at the former DTE building on Jos. Campau.
The ZBA said it had no choice but to allow the mosques to move in, but as much as we believe in religious freedom, these two developments work against the best interests of the city as well as the members of mosques.
For those wishing to worship at the two sites, one key problem emerges: Just where are they going to park?
For the city’s sake, you have to question why you would give up prime commercial real estate to an entity that won’t be paying taxes.
We need to reserve our commercial district for strictly commercial development. Those establishments bring in taxes and shoppers.
ZBA member Sean Kowalski said there might be a way around the federal act giving religious centers extra rights. He suggests the city rewrite its zoning law to restrict religious activity to the upper floors of commercial establishments in the business district, and leave the ground floors solely for commerce.
We suggest city officials move on this quickly before more religious centers move in on Jos. Campau.