In response to the lawsuit filed by the United States Department of Justice on December 15, 2016:
Sterling Heights has a solid reputation for inclusiveness and tolerance reflected in a wide variety of places of worship across the City, including two existing Mosques, a Sikh Temple, a Buddhist Temple, Christian churches of various denominations and a BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Sterling Heights is a community that has and continues to welcome diversity through many programs and events. For many years, the city has been known in Metro Detroit as a premier community—in large part because of its diverse population representing a wide variety of cultures, ethnicities and race. One of Sterling Heights' most well-attended annual events is the ever-popular Cultural Exchange, wherein thousands of residents gather every year to celebrate and share their heritage with one another through food, dancing, art displays and other activities.
Sterling Heights will continue to foster faith-based inclusiveness and understanding with local partners including our city's school districts, religious organizations and other community groups. Sterling Heights was the first City in Macomb County to join Welcoming Michigan, an organization representing new refugees and immigrants who have chosen Sterling Heights as their new home. We continue to work closely with Welcoming Michigan to develop new programs tailored to inclusiveness as well as promoting education and understanding of the various cultures within our City. As stated in the City's 2030 Vision Statement; Sterling Heights is a vibrant, inclusive community for residents and businesses that is safe, active, progressive and distinctive. Inclusiveness will continue to be a guiding principle in all that we do. As such, the City has been and continues to be interested in collaborating with the American Islamic Community Center (AICC).
With the above in mind, the City has cooperated fully with the Department of Justice in this matter, and is surprised and disappointed in its decision to initiate this lawsuit at this time. The City maintains that the AICC application for special approval land use to construct a mosque was considered and denied by the City's Planning Commission based on established land use criteria including the incompatibility with adjoining uses, insufficient parking, as well as overall size and height of the building, and not emotional feelings tied to religious beliefs either for or against the applicant. The City welcomes the AICC along with any other religious groups to Sterling Heights and we will continue an open dialog to address areas of disagreement with respect to land use.
Knowing this matter involves litigation, the City will not be commenting any further publicly.