In a contentious battle involving religious rights, the U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Pittsfield Township, alleging it unlawfully denied a religious group the right to build an Islamic school on a vacant plot of land.

In the lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court, the federal government accused the charter township of breaking the law in denying zoning approval to the Michigan Islamic Academy, which wants to build a school on undeveloped land that sits next to a residential subdivision known as Silverleaf. The property, which sits just south of Ann Arbor, had been approved in the mid-1990s as a housing project and did not include schools as a permitted use, so the academy requested the property be rezoned to allow the school.

"Pittsfield Township representatives ... assured them that as long as MIA followed the proper procedures, rezoning the property to allow a school would not be a problem," the lawsuit claimed.

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