A mosque in Nebraska

In 1990, Lexington Nebraska, population about 10,000, had less than 100 residents that were foreign-born. Today close to half of its adult population is foreign-born. In 2018, Edvin Ortiz, son of Guatemalan immigrants, and Vanessa Lo, daughter of Cambodian immigrants, were selected by their classmates—a student body of 880 that speaks 30 languages and hails from 40 countries—to represent them as homecoming king. Mexicans and Guatemalans account for about a large share of the population today.

About half of the foreign-born population speaks English “less than well.” Half speak Spanish at home. About half of the foreign-born population are naturalized citizens. Over 60% did not complete high school.

Many Muslims live in there, drawn there by a meat-processing plant owned by Tyson Fresh Meats which employs 2,700 people

The Islamic Center had been hosting prayers for eight years in two small storefronts on the edge of downtown Lexington until 2016. Then purchased a closed laundromat next door and expanded into the new space.

The city and several townspeople objected when the center sought a conditional-use permit to allow the worship center in a district zoned for commerce. City officials said the expanded mosque could deter commercial development. Concerns were raised about a lack of parking spaces owned by the mosque, even though it sits next to at least two public parking lots.

The city ultimately sued the Islamic Center for ignoring the denial of its conditional-use permit.

The ACLU of Nebraska intervened on behalf of the Islamic Center, and the Justice Department began investigating whether the city was discriminating against the center’s right to worship.

Then the city and the Islamic Center began talking about a compromise. They reached agreement on the wording of a conditional-use permit. The agreement limited the occupancy of the expanded mosque to 200 people.

The mosque also agreed to not oppose any special liquor licenses in the area, such as those issued for an annual town festival held on a public parking lot next to the mosque. The Islamic Center also agreed to adhere to all city building ordinances. The agreement protects the interests of a nearby bar and grill with an existing liquor license. The Islamic Center agreed not to oppose or contest future liquor license applications.

Source here, and thanks to reporter Paul Hammel.

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