The group calling itself the Concerned Citizens of Canberra has taken its fight over the proposed Gungahlin mosque to the ACT Supreme Court.
The group delivered thousands of flyers to Gungahlin homes in June, urging residents to oppose the mosque because of its ”social impact”, ”public interest” and concerns about traffic and noise.
The public notification period for the development closed on July 6, with the ACT Planning and Land Authority receiving more than 50 submissions.
The Concerned Citizens of Canberra asked for the window to be reopened but were knocked back on August 6.
They have now filed papers in the ACT Supreme Court saying the refusal was ”likely to result in a denial of natural justice”.
They claim the planning authority’s decision not to extend the comment period was an ”improper exercise” of their power. The group has waged a concerted campaign against the mosque.
The secretive participants in the campaign consistently told media and government that they were concerned with local planning issues, including traffic and noise.
ButÂ The Canberra TimesÂ revealed in June that Irwin Ross, the group’s spokesman, was a Christian fundamentalist activist who lived at least 15 kilometres from the proposed Valley Avenue site.
Good heavens! A “Christian fundamentalist activist “- what’s the world coming to!Â
Documents filed in the Supreme Court identify Mr Ross as the group’s public officer.
Mr Ross describes himself as a pastor with Olive Tree Ministries who hosts fortnightly meetings at a prayer house in Yarralumla.
Associates of the Higgins resident have said he is known in Canberra’s Christian community for his stridently pro-Israel views.
The statement of claim filed with the court was supported by affidavits from Mr Ross and Jill Ross, but these were not made available toÂ The Canberra TimesÂ yesterday.
The ACT Government Solicitor’s Office has flagged its intention to respond to the claim.
But it queried whether the Concerned Citizens group was actually a legal person – an individual or corporation – and competent to launch legal proceedings.
The court yesterday gave the group permission to resubmit its claim in light of its recent incorporation, which the ACT Office of Regulatory Services website dates to July 27 this year. The matter is due back in court in October. The case comes as the ACT Government prepares to introduce changes to the territory’s Discrimination Act in response to the anti-mosque campaign.
The bill, to be tabled by Attorney-General Simon Corbell in the Legislative Assembly next week, will add religion to the list of vilification offences in the ACT.
A Human Rights Commission review of the flyer recommended the territory’s Discrimination Act be reformed to include better provisions for discrimination against religious groups.