Newton rejects proposal aimed at Muslim burial practices

The Newton County board rejected a county commissioner’s attempt to tighten regulations on burials in the county, but critics say the effort is a transparent and misguided attempt to discourage a mosque and Islamic cemetery proposed for his district.

Commissioner John Douglas, a vocal opponent of a Doraville-based Muslim congregation who are seeking to build a mosque in Newton County, proposed requiring burials be done in a casket or vault in cemeteries in the county. Traditionally Muslim communities bury their dead without embalming or caskets.

The Newton County Planning Commission rejected the proposal in a meeting Tuesday.

Douglas claimed he was concerned such burial practices threaten ground water. That’s not true, said Josh Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a non-profit that advocates for low-cost and alternative funeral arrangements.

“This is not a gray area. This is not an area where people can agree to disagree,” he said. “Cemetery burial is not a public health issue.”

Read more on Douglas’ proposed change to county regulations and reaction to it in this week’s AJC Watchdog column here.

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