Tag Archives: ICC

Justice Dept. sues Virginia county over denied permit for mosque

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Culpeper County, Virginia, alleging the county violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 when it denied a sewage permit application to the Islamic Center of Culpeper.

The Justice Department said denying the permit effectively preventing the ICC from building a small mosque on land that it had purchased in the county.  The land is located in a zoning district where religious land use is permitted by right.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, alleges the county imposed a substantial burden on the Muslim congregation’s exercise of religion and discriminated against the ICC based on religion when it refused to grant a “pump and haul” permit to allow the ICC to transport sewage from the ICC’s property to a point of disposal.

The county had told the ICC that such a permit was necessary because its soil, like much soil in the area, could not support a septic system.  Since 1992, the county has considered 26 applications and never denied a pump and haul permit to a commercial or religious use prior to the ICC.

“The Constitution and federal law specifically protect the freedom of religious communities to establish houses of worship,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division.  “The Justice Department will continue to work tirelessly to protect every person’s right to assemble for religious exercise.”

“Religious liberty is a fundamental right in our country and this case seeks to uphold that right,” added U.S. Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. of the Western District of Virginia.

RLUIPA, enacted in 2000, contains multiple provisions prohibiting religious discrimination and protecting against unjustified burdens on religion exercise.

Group wants Vatican investigated by war crimes tribunal

Victims of clerical sex abuse are asking the International Criminal Court to investigate the pope and other top Vatican officials for possible crimes against humanity.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based nonprofit legal group, requested the inquiry on behalf of the U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. In court filings, SNAP argues that the global church has maintained a “long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence” despite promises to swiftly oust predators.

The complaint names Pope Benedict XVI, partly in his former role as leader of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Since 2001, that office has been responsible for overseeing abuse cases. Also named are Cardinal William Levada, who now leads that office, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who served as the Vatican secretary of state under Pope John Paul II, and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who now holds that post.

The complaint accuses those officials of creating policies that perpetuated sexual violence against minors, the equivalent of an attack against a civilian population. Attorneys for the victims also contend that rape, sexual violence and torture are considered crimes against humanity according to the international treaty defining the court’s mandate.

The Vatican’s U.S. lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, told The Associated Press that the complaint is a “ludicrous publicity stunt and a misuse of international judicial processes.”

SNAP president Barbara Blaine said going to the court was a last resort.

“We have tried everything we could think of to get them to stop and they won’t,” she told AP. “If the pope wanted to, he could take dramatic action at any time that would help protect children today and in the future, and he refuses to take the action.”

The odds against the court opening an investigation are enormous, according to AP. The prosecutor has received nearly 9,000 independent proposals for inquiries since 2002, when the court was created as the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal, and has never opened a formal investigation based solely on such a request.