On March 2, 2017, the Town of Dudley issued the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester a permit to move forward with their plan to build a cemetery in the town — a proposal that was met with contentious opposition by some residents, prompting a year-long legal battle. WBUR's David Boeri reports:

Lawsuits and a civil rights investigation followed, until both sides came to an agreement in December. But a hearing Thursday night was the first and critical test of that agreement.

Dudley Town Administrator Greg Balukonis said the process of getting to Thursday's hearing took a long time — about a year and two months.

"The process was difficult, but in the end the zoning board of appeals did the right thing," he said.

At the hearing it was clear that much had changed since last May, when the zoning board had denied the Islamic Society a permit in that very same room.

What followed the initial denial were several legal moves: a lawsuit filed in state Land Court; an investigation by the civil rights unit of the U.S. attorney’s office; a warning from the state attorney general’s office; and the entry of the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as an outside law firm, to join the Islamic Society in a claim that Dudley officials had denied the group's right to practice their religion.

The ACLU of Massachusetts is heartened that the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester is a step closer to being able to have its cemetery close to home and that Town leaders are welcoming that development. We, along with cooperating attorney Howard Cooper, were glad to assist in ensuring that the religious liberties and civil rights of all are protected. As a pioneer for freedom in our state, the ACLU will keep doing this work.

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