You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

Pittsfield Township responds to lawsuit over Islamic school

By Danielle Arndt

Pittsfield Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal issued a statement Thursday about the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Michigan Islamic Academy, citing the township's past approval of mosques and an Islamic prayer service in a public park.


Mandy Grewal

MIA is fighting the township’s decision to deny the private school a rezoning request for property it purchased near the intersection of Golfside Drive and Ellsworth Road. Its intent is to build a new 360-student school and Islamic community center at the site.

MIA alleges in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal district court that the township is discriminating against the school because of the school’s non-Christian, religious affiliation.

Grewal said Pittsfield Township does not comment on pending litigation but, within the context of the existing claims, added:

“It is important to note that the Pittsfield Planning Commission has approved two mosques and the board, in 2010, dedicated the use of an entire township park, along with provision of requisite public safety personnel, for an Islamic prayer service.

“Pittsfield Township also has a vibrant and successful multicultural academy within walking distance of the township hall.

“The Pittsfield Township Planning Commission and Board of Trustees have and will continue to follow federal and state law and local ordinances when considering rezoning requests,” the statement said.

Township officials previously said their opposition was based on safety and traffic concerns.

To read’s previous coverage of this pending lawsuit, click here.

Staff reporter Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.

I wonder what is going to happen to property values in Pittsfield township when it becomes increasingly evident that Muslims are moving in and turning it into an upscale Dearborn.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

Either they knew the facts about zoning in the area and disregarded them which is stupid or didn't bother to look for those facts which is equally stupid.Either way they figured they could get by because who they are.When the door got closed to them they ,as Mort the Red Wing says, "played the race card." Quite a common defense these days of P.C..And usually a fool hardy one as it should be.


Sat, Feb 25, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

Pittsfield Township approved a house being converted to a Mosque or prayer center on MI Ave This too is a terrible location for an already very busy street. I don't believe any laws were violated in this situation.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

No to Menards & now no to a school. At least the boards message is consistent.

Basic Bob

Sat, Feb 25, 2012 : 11:05 a.m.

Their message: West side good, East side bad. West side gets a new asphalt path to Saline, rezoning for Costco, widening of State Road, and a reduced-price Pittsfield cop at Saline High School. East side gets arbitrary traffic stops on Carpenter Road and crackdowns by the police.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

Rules are rules and zoning laws exist for a reason. Surely the Islamic Academy knew what the zoning was when they purchased the land. So they bought it under the assumption that getting the zoning changed would be an easy hurdle to cross? Frankly, I'm tired of all these builders/developers/whatevers purchasing land that is clearly zoned one way, and then being presumptuous enough to expect they will get whatever they want down the road. I don't feel sorry for any of them if they know clearly in advance of purchasing property.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Wow, Gee, you let them have a prayer service once in a park, isn't that nice of you.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

This lawsuit which was filed on behalf of the M.I.A. by The C.A.I.R. should expose exactly who C.A.I.R. is. But there is another side to CAIR that has alarmed many people in positions to know. The Department of Homeland Security refuses to deal with it. Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat, New York) describes it as an organization "which we know has ties to terrorism."[3] Senator Dick Durbin (Democrat, Illinois) observes that CAIR is "unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect."[4] Steven Pomerantz, the FBI's former chief of counterterrorism, notes that "CAIR, its leaders, and its activities effectively give aid to international terrorist groups."[5] The family of John P. O'Neill, Sr., the former FBI counterterrorism chief who perished at the World Trade Center, named CAIR in a lawsuit as having "been part of the criminal conspiracy of radical Islamic terrorism"[6] responsible for the September 11 atrocities. Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson calls it "a radical fundamentalist front group for Hamas. Of particular note are the American Muslims who reject CAIR's claim to speak on their behalf. The late Seifeldin Ashmawy, publisher of the New Jersey-based Voice of Peace, called CAIR the champion of "extremists whose views do not represent Islam."[8] Jamal Hasan of the Council for Democracy and Tolerance explains that CAIR's goal is to spread "Islamic hegemony the world over by hook or by crook. I'm sure will delete. It's just the part they didn't tell you.


Sun, Feb 26, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

@bob: that's exactly what "rusnak" is doing .. keeping babies, rejecting bathwater... in noting that there are muslim constituencies that reject CAIR'S ties to extremists. This clearly isnt one of them, as i too have noted elsewhere re it's disgraceful employment of a local synagogue harasser ( per the Washtenaw Jewish News feb , 2010, p in action included.! Glad Rusnaks post stayed up.

Basic Bob

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

Please reserve the baby before throwing out the bathwater.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

Wow! I wasn't deleted. Apologize for the bad sentence structure in the first line. To many things going on at once. For those that care the second and third paragraph were taken from the MEF. Mid-East Forum.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

"Pittsfield Township does not comment on pending litigation" ... so let me comment on the pending litigation.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 5:02 a.m.

Seems to me that if I paid $260,000 for some property that I would have done my homework to see what I could build on it in stead of trying to force a township to change the zoning. I can't buy a piece of commercial property and build a house on it, Nor would I want to. It also seems to me that this doesn't have anything to do with religion. Ask the people over in Silverleaf and the surrounding residential areas would they want a Walmart, strip mall, Domino's pizza or even a church built in their backyard. A lot of people use these establishments but wouldn't want them right next door. I would think that most residence would have a problem with that. It would be one thing if the school was there first and the residence decided to build houses around it but it's another thing to build commercial property in a residential area. Sale the property (for a profit maybe) and find some commercial property in another area where it would be better for everyone.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 11:34 p.m.

The real question regarding any religious school is: Do they teach under accepted educational standards? That's all there is to it, except of course for necessary pragmatic factors like how the chosen location affects traffic and the surrounding community. Given that there are well known examples of religious schools (including colleges) which put "faith" over science, math and history: it's plain that the notion of "religious exemption" has reached the point where there's a necessary confrontation. "Religious freedom" is too broadly defined, there's too much leeway given and far too much credibility given to "religious teaching." There's a huge misunderstanding of the phrase: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." Establishment and free exercise of - is the key part of that phrase. It does not mean (and never has meant) that any religion can indulge in competition with educational institutions which deal with real world science, history and math. There ARE established limits to religious freedom; no religion can operate in violation of the law (but many do). For any religion to establish schools which teach VIOLATIONS of known scientific facts and known history - is exceeding the freedom granted under the Constitution.

Jim Osborn

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

"For any religion to establish schools which teach VIOLATIONS of known scientific facts and known history - is exceeding the freedom granted under the Constitution." The Establishment of Religion clause means that government cannot favor one religion over another. There cannot be a Church of the United States as there was and still is a Church of England. It is not a separation, but prohibiting an establishment. The Constitution does not cover or mention what schools teach. It clearly left this to the states, and even the local level. What part of the Constitution prohibits teaching that the earth is flat?

Basic Bob

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

"Do they teach under accepted educational standards?" Yes. And that's all there is to it.

N. Todd

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 5:23 a.m.

I read the majority of these comments (At least on the stories that interest me) and I often find myself in a state of disappointment. Disappointed that there are so many useless insults. Disappointed that so many people attempt to make a rude or shocking comment just to get a few up votes as opposed to actually offering something substantive for discussion. Disappointed that logic and reason have been substituted for rhetoric and anger and ignorance and irrationality. I find it all very sad. Your posts, sir, are a breath of fresh air every time I have the honor to read them. After losing so much from reading all the negative posts, at least a little hope for humanity is restored after reading yours. I would simply like to extend a genuine "Thank you".


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 10:42 p.m.

I don't know the facts in the specific case, BUT to have the person say, We dont comment on pending litigation, but I will talk about the issues given in the pending litigation, seems pretty stupid to me. If the township has a good case, their job will be to shut their mouth and let it play out in court. Otherwise ANYTHING that a trustee or other member of the planning commission says IS evidence, and draws them into every single facet of their life. If an employee said the zoning will be no problem (as the suit alleges), the township will be on the hook for this.

Basic Bob

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 1:25 p.m.

Agreed, but this is worse. This is not a township employee, trustee, or member of the planning commission. This is our elected Supervisor, and from all reports, she participated in the discussions with MIA. It's a bad move to comment now.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

Thank you John Q for posting an important point, is it legal or not to refuse this request. Upon reading Ms Grewal's statement, my first thought was maybe they should have stuck with "PT does not comment on legal matters." I think her statement indicates they put a limit on how many sites this religious organization can have in the township. The bottom line is if they have the legal right to deny the request. I feel sorry for the Michigan Islamic Academy for finding this out after they purchased the property for $260,000 according to the article linked to in the first paragraph. Perhaps it would have been wiser to find out if the zoning would have been approved before the purchase.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

I agree.

John Q

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

Is it legal to deny the request? It is if the Township did so based on some set of facts that would hold up in court. But the Planning Commission used the excuse of "traffic" when the Township's own expert said that traffic wasn't a reason to deny the request. A federal judge will look at that and find that the Township unfairly denied the request, especially since it places an unreasonable burden on a religious institution in denying the request. The end result is that the Township loses the case and has to pay legal fees.

John Q

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:53 p.m.

This means nothing. The only thing that will matter is the fact that a federal judge will see that the Township Planning Commission and Township Board deliberately ignored the facts in the report from the Township's traffic consultant. After that, it will only be a matter of how much the Township will pay out in legal fees to the Academy's attorneys after the Township loses this lawsuit.

John Q

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.

Switching sides? Schools are allowed in residential zoning districts. The school is an allowed use in this area. Totally different situation than in Ann Arbor.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.

It's odd, but the other day you were adamant that a sausage-making couple shouldn't be allowed to expand and have retail space approval, it didn't fit zoning rules. And you said that it's their own fault, they should have done their due diligence before purchasing the property. Why switch sides, now?


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:25 p.m.

My comment is in regard to traffic issues. I understand where the neighborhoods concerns come from. My daughter went to a charter school. Hello! folks, there is no bussing for most of these schools. There is some carpooling, but for the most part each child (360) will be driven to school and picked up from school. Unless these school could come to some kind of agreement about starting and ending of the school day, which I doubt either will, please consider another location. So yes this area will be a nightmare with two charter school within sight of each other. This statememt is not about race or religon. Plesase don't read between the line because there is nothing there.


Fri, Feb 24, 2012 : 2:17 a.m.

I work near a school in Livonia, morning rush hour is chaos!, bus traffic, commuter traffic, kids walking, parents dropping off kids. Naturally everyone is in a rush. Never mind bad weather too. It is an issue that deserves careful consideration.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

What "two" mosques did they approve? There is only one mosque in Pittsfield Twp. As for the 2010 prayer, why is it a valid argument to say "I let you walk on my grass one day so that makes up for me not wanting you to move in next door"? Furthermore, what "safety" and "traffic" concerns can they claim when all the studies that THEY commissioned came back clearly stating that there would be no safety or traffic risks?


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

That's a pretty big project to put in that area. Golfside is a busy road as it is right there, and only a 2 lane road to boot. Not to mention there's already a school right next door to that property that has traffic issues as well. That's just a bad spot to put something that big.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

i think enough was done for them. sounds like we want it and we are going to get it. pull the race card and see what happens. i am sure this will not please people what i am saying but it sure sound like this to me.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

I wonder what the African-American community thinks about another minority using their "Game Plan" to get special treatment? Clearly the Pittsfield Township Government has a different opinion on the new "Religious Schools" location. To bring in "Religious discrimination" means that they do not have a strong case against the Zoning Plan in place. I am surprised in Liberal/Progressive Ann Arbor area that anybody would want any Religious School at all!


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 11:14 p.m.

Ouch, xmo, I agree with you in many areas but, that first sentence gets me. Even though I think we're on the same page.

Lemmy Caution

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

As a liberal/progressive Ann Arbor type, let me say that I am religious (most of us are). "Religious" doesn't necessarily mean anti-liberal/anti-progressive. In fact, most liberal and progressive issues (e.g., anti-death penalty; anti-torture; anti-poverty; family assistance; anti-mass incarceration, etc) emerge from a religious point of view about human dignity, caring for our fellow children of God, and a religious sanction toward social justice.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 6:37 p.m.

Sounds a lot like "I'm not racist, I have black friends!"


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 9:42 p.m.

That was my first reaction too. See also "stop complaining, we did something for you people once, sheesh, so entitled!"


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 7:34 p.m.

How do you figure that?

The Black Stallion3

Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 7:10 p.m.

always provoking, never helping.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

sometimes that's really true.... your post is way too glib given assorted substantive concerns ( from reality based zoning ones, to reality based ideological ones) expressed on longer threads on this issue . sorry its not all that pollyanna simple.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

Not even close. Using that argument takes no action on a person's part. Pittsfield town council had to vote in favor of two major Muslim projects and then a third time for the prayer thing along with supplying town support services and property. Doing those things is much more involved and shows a commitment to the Muslim religion when possible and not just using the "I've got Muslim friends" argument.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 6:19 p.m.

The lawsuit against Pittsfield lost me when they invoked Jim Crow. Dear lord.


Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.

I'm glad the township came out with this in their defense. And I'm glad they sent Ms. Grewal as the messenger.