Palos Heights, Chicago: Controversy over Sale of Church to Muslims

July 20, 2000

Source: The Associated Press

On July 20, 2000, the Associated Press released an article about how the plan to convert a church into a mosque has divided the mostly Christian Chicago suburb of Palos Heights. Yet even with all the "political sniping and accusations of bigotry, residents seemed a little stunned when a federal mediator stood up at a recent city council meeting with an offer to step in." The council did not immediately accept the offer, but the mayor seemed open to the idea. Some in the small town wish the spotlight had never hit their quiet community, and it might not have if Mayor Dean Koldenhoven "had not vociferously blocked the city council's plan to pay the Al Salam Mosque Foundation $200,000 to drop its plan" to buy an old church, calling the offer an "insult" to Muslims. Four aldermen continue to insist that they offered the payment so the city could buy the church and "convert it into a much-needed recreation space." "He's the one who says, 'You are bigots!'...He's to blame," Alderman Frank Passarelli yelled at a recent city council meeting, pointing his finger at the mayor. That sentiment has been echoed by several residents, including some calling for his resignation. Yet others say it's time for Palos Heights to take a good hard look at itself as a community, especially since the church has been for sale for two years with no previous offers from the city. "If you look inside your hearts, you know you do not want a mosque here," resident Edward Hassan, a real estate developer and Muslim, told the council.