In 2010, Khadar Ahmed, a member of the local Somali community, applied for a permit with Mayfield’s Board of Zoning Adjustments to rent a commercial storefront for use as a mosque and community center. The property was to be rented to serve approximately 150 Somali immigrants who worked at the nearby Pilgrim’s Pride chicken plant. The storefront property was located in a zoning district of Central Mayfield where the board had previously approved two similar permits for churches. The Board had initially approved Ahmed’s permit on Aug 10th but decided to reconsider their approval on Aug 24th, stating that members of the community had not been given an opportunity for public comment on the matter. After reversing their approval at the Aug 24th meeting, the Board once more reconsidered their decision citing “pending or threatened litigation” (Right to worship, 2010, Oct 10) after the ACLU provided Ahmed with legal representation. The permit was finally approved on November 9th.
The Board’s initial approval was based on existing zoning for commercial properties and the precedence of other religious buildings permitted within close proximity to the site. Following the Board’s approval of the permit on the 10th, public opposition to the mosque grew within the community until the meeting on the 24th, where the meeting room was filled past capacity. Over 250 residents packed into the building, with more than 100 of these participants forced to stand in the hallways outside of the meeting room. There were no members of the Muslim community present at the 24th meeting, as law enforcement had turned them away after seating capacity inside the building had been reached. While a majority of the town’s citizens were not opposed to the mosque, many citizens received applause after stating that they would oppose the erection of a mosque anywhere in town. Some citizens wore shirts with the phrase “I’m an American, I believe in the Christian Church” (Kendall, 2010, Sep 30). The board cited parking and capacity concerns as reasons for their decision to reject the mosque’s permit. Both during and after the meeting, the Somali community was unable to defend their best interests due to a significant language barrier and a lack of familiarity with local laws and procedure.
After the rejection, the ACLU sent a letter to the Board stating that the rejection of the permit violated the rights of Ahmed and the Somali community. They pointed out that the rejection was based on false assumptions about the behavior of those visiting the Islamic Center and warned that the city’s denial was a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. The ACLU hired attorney William Deatherage to represent Ahmed and the Somali community. Following the involvement of the ACLU on behalf of the Muslim community, the Board voted to approve the permit during a subsequent meeting on November 9th. In February of 2011, it was reported that the Islamic Center no longer used the rental property for worship. The ACLU confirmed that this was the result of a financial inability to afford the rental fee for the space (Money troubles close Mayfield mosque, 2011, Feb 5).
- Kendall, T. (2010, September 30). From the Bottom. Paris Post-Intelligencer, The (TN). Available from NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current.
- Money troubles close Mayfield mosque, ACLU says. (2011, February 5). The Associated Press News Service. Available from NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current.
- Right to worship - Battle over Mayfield mosque has statewide ramifications. (2010, October 15). The Daily Independent (Ashland, KY). Available from NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current.