In Newton County, a Religious Group’s Proposed Development Causes Controversy

A plan by a religious group to build a school, a residential area, cemetery, and a worship facility on 135 acres in Newton County has drawn criticism from elected officials, according to a story in the Newton Citizen. Despite the fact that the property in question was purchased a year ago, county leadership appeared to be ignorant of the plans until they were revealed in a story in the Citizen last Wednesday.

[District 1 Commissioner John] Douglas said his biggest concern was the fact that commissioners had not been notified in advance that a potentially controversial project was planned.

“I had no idea at all that this was in the works,” Douglas said. “I talked to (County Attorney) Megan Martin this morning and she says that — as I understand it — churches may be exempt from having to be approved by us for zoning.”

County Commission Chairman Keith Ellis was also surprised that the current zoning code allows for churches and cemeteries in all of the county’s zoning districts.

But why such controversy over a religious use of the property? Perhaps because the owner is Al Maad Al Islami Inc., which owns a mosque and school in Doraville. Commissioner Douglas, who has made controversial remarks about minorities in the past, appeared to worry about what the future of the property would bring:

“The first question that comes to my mind is if there are enough Muslims in south Newton County that we need to build not only a mosque but a community, a school and what all is in the plan,” said Douglas, “would building those things make us a prime area for the federal government to resettle refugees from the Middle East? So I do have some concerns, like the people who live down there.”

What Commissioner Douglas may not realize is that refugees, after being vetted by the federal government, are placed by the state with sponsors, who agree to help them get settled in Georgia. The federal government is not going to look at the new development and spy a location where refugees could be placed en masse.

Over the last few years, there has been a push at the Gold Dome for a bill protecting religious freedom by those who are concerned that the rights of people to practice their religion without interference could be taken away. It seems like this might be a prime example of why such a law is needed. But, 🐸☕️.

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Indypendant
Indypendant

Jesus H. Christ. Very few of us can trace our roots back to native Americans. We are all immigrants.

Show some tolerance for Pete’s sake.

Teri
Teri

A plan by a religious group to build a school, a residential area, cemetery, and a worship facility on 135 acres in Newton County… So, basically, the same concept as the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Rockdale County? The monastery doesn’t have a school, per se, but they do have a retreat center and offer a variety of educational programs throughout the year. They also have a church, residential buildings for the monks and for retreat participants, and they have a beautiful natural burial ground. Would Newton County greet a Catholic order, or any other Christian denomination, with that… Read more »

bethebalance
bethebalance

That Doraville mosque is that same one that alleges harassment from Tom Owens? Could it be that they just decided to move that far away from him?
Also, it sounds like, at best, there have only been some preliminary plans submitted to the County, but that’s not exactly clear. So, if the Planning Dept.-and other related development authorities do their job, there should be no need for code enforcement down the line.
Also, did the Commissioners think they have the power to decide who gets to buy property in the County? Who gets to propose a development?

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

The problem at Doraville is the facility. Its improperly adapted to a too small site.

davidmac
davidmac

Racists gonna racist. Thanks George for pointing out the legal liability that the city will face if the idiots win the battle and lose the war.

Teri
Teri

Those comments. Man. It’s astonishing and horrifying what people will write, on the internet, with their real name. God bless them all.

alfonso
alfonso

“It seems like this might be a prime example of why such a law is needed.”

How? H.B. 757 would not have had any application to this situation if it were passed, correct? Am I missing something? Seems like that would only apply if, for example, Newton County passed a resolution requiring the proposed facility to be rented out for a Christian wedding or something like that.