Commissioners approved the moratorium Tuesday night in response to a plan to develop a mosque and cemetery on 135 acres at the intersection of Ga. Highway 162 and County Line Road. Hundreds of residents turned out at the Tuesday night meeting in opposition to the plan by non-profit Al Maad Al Islami Inc., which also includes 5 acres for future cemetery expansion, 28 acres for a future school operated by the church, 21 acres for residential uses, and 4.8 acres for open space.
In a letter addressed to Chairman Keith Ellis and emailed to all commissioners Thursday, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of CAIR, called the moratorium an “extraordinary step” that commissioners would not have taken if Protestants had planned to build a new church and Christian cemetery.
Mitchell further stated that the moratorium was unconstitutional because it was “clearly motivated by opposition to the specific faith behind this specific project … ”
“For the sake of combating extremism, upholding American values and treating all citizens equally, we ask you to voluntarily bring this discrimination to an end at your next public meeting on Aug. 22.
“You can do so by lifting the moratorium, publicly apologizing to the people of Newton County and collaborating with your American Muslim constituents to ensure that their new house of worship comes to fruition in a way acceptable to all interested parties,” he added. “Although we do not speak on behalf of the mosque in question, its leadership has (assured) us that it is eager to collaborate with the county commission and resolve this issue in a reasonable way acceptable to all concerned parties.
The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the moratorium for a period of five weeks. District 1 Commissioner John Douglas made the motion, saying that the interval would give the county’s planning staff time to review zoning provisions and the current trends for places of worship. The county’s current zoning ordinance allows places of worship in all zoning categories in the county, provided the project meets minimum requirements of the ordinance. 
Commissioners plan to hold two public meetings Monday, Aug. 22, to give citizens an opportunity to speak on the issue. Due to limited space in the meeting room at the Historic Courthouse, only 300 people will be allowed in each session. The meetings are scheduled as follows: 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.
Those who are unable to attend may send written comments to: Newton County Board of Commissioners, 1124 Clark St., Covington 30014. For more information, contact the BOC office at 678-625-1200.