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.”