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Lawfare in New Jersey: Small Town Has To Pay Muslims $3.25 Mil After Rejecting Mosque


This Town Has To Pay An Islamic Society $3.25 Million After Denying Its Right To Build A Mosque

The lawsuits claimed the town’s zoning board had denied an Islamic center’s application, over four years and 39 hearings, based on the members’ faith.

Originally posted on May 30, 2017, at 5:21 p.m.
Updated on May 30, 2017, at 9:58 p.m.

Talal Ansari
Talal Ansari
BuzzFeed News Reporter

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Worshippers during a service at the Bernards Township Community Center in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, in 2017.

A town in New Jersey has to pay an Islamic society $3.25 million in a legal settlement after officials denied approval to build a mosque after 39 hearings that lasted for four years.

In two separate federal lawsuits filed in March and November of 2016, the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge and the Department of Justice, respectively, accused Bernards Township — just 50 miles west of Manhattan — of violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) of 2000.

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M. Ali Chaudry of the Basking Ridge mosque speaks in 2015.

The lawsuits accuse the town’s planning board of having different zoning standards for a mosque compared to other houses of worship.

“What should have been a simple board approval for a permitted use devolved into a Kafkaesque process that spanned an unprecedented four years and included 39 public hearings,” the March 2016 lawsuit read.

As part of the settlement with the DOJ, the town has agreed to allow the Islamic society to construct a mosque on its property. The town also agreed to change ordinances to limit the zoning restrictions placed on all houses of worship. The payment includes damages and attorney fees.

“Municipalities around the country should pay close attention to what happened in Bernards Township,” said Adeel Mangi, lead attorney for the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, in a statement. “The American Muslim community has the legal resources, the allies, and the determination to stand up for its constitutional rights in court and will do so.” Mangi’s also said it will donate $1.75 million in attorney fees to “to a variety of charitable and other worthy causes.”

A statement by a spokesperson representing Bernards Township said allegations in the lawsuits of discrimination by the town were false. “The Township denies the claims,” the statement read, adding that the decision “was based on legitimate land use and safety concerns.”

“We remain a united township where all are welcome. This is the end of a long engagement on the application and opinions may still be varied, but it is in the best interest of the Township to conclude the litigation,” the statement said of their decision to settle.

Mohammad Ali Chaudry, the plaintiff and president of ISBR, said he was “pleased by this resolution and hope to receive prompt approval to build our mosque.” Choudry, who once served as mayor of Bernards Township, also said the mosque’s “doors will be open to anyone interested in building bridges to promote harmony in the community and peace in the world.”

During the long application process, where each meeting was widely attended by the public and every aspect of the application scrutinized, the Islamic Society was also subject to incidents of vandalism and social media harassment, according to the group’s lawsuit.

Some posts about the proposed mosque on on the internet were titled “A mosque by any other name is still a potential terrorist indoctrination center.”

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ISBR lawsuit

The group also alleges their mailbox was vandalized and the group’s name was changed to appear like “ISIS.”

Residents complained that the proposed mosque would result in parking and traffic problems, while others said the mosque made them “nervous.”

“Federal law requires towns to treat religious land use applications like any other land use application,” Acting US Attorney Fitzpatrick said. “Bernards Township made decisions that treated the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge differently than other houses of worship. The settlement announced today corrects those decisions and ensures that members of this religious community have the same ability to practice their faith as all other religions.”

The township also agreed that their elected leaders and other employees will undergo training on the requirements of RLUIPA. It has also agreed to publicize its nondiscrimination policies and periodically report to the Justice Department on its compliance with the settlement agreement.

RLUIPA was passed by Congress in 2000 and is designed to “protect individuals, houses of worship, and other religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and landmarking laws,” according to the Justice Department.

The town’s planning board and committee both voted to settle the lawsuits at meetings last week, on May 23.

CORRECTION

May 30, 2017, at 7:33 p.m.

The amount of the legal settlement was misstated in a previous headline for this post.

Talal Ansari is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. His secure PGP fingerprint is 4FEE 894C 8088 7E08 E170 A515 2801 7CC6 95D3 11C2

10 thoughts on “Lawfare in New Jersey: Small Town Has To Pay Muslims $3.25 Mil After Rejecting Mosque

  1. We don’t know all the details but the Lawyers for the town might have missed something. The mosque claim was based on religion. Islam is a theocracy, a system of Government based on religious commands. Mosques are all promoted as “community centers” but are actually government buildings.

    The land use regulations do not allow for government buildings. Local streets were constructed to residential standards therefore the contractors, if any, will be liable for any road repairs or reconstruction. Random vehicle safety inspections will be done.

    Being that this will be a government building, commercial codes will have to be adhered to including tradesman standards and qualifications. This site will have to be monitored by Building Inspectors for every nail, for every screw, every brick. Islamic terrorist are threatening the entire world. In order to try to ensure the safety of the area, every vehicle will have to be fully inspected both entering and leaving the construction site. This will be done by a certified and licensed security company for 24 hr safety. A strong secure safety fence will be required to keep the site and workers, if any, safe, monitored by numerous security staff walking the perimeter with their guard dogs.

    ICE will of course be watching for illegal migrants and the site shut down every time any illegals are discovered.

    I might also suggest the town discretely advise contractors, unions, suppliers, surveyors and construction companies that future work for the city might be considered as less than favorable.

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  2. Town accused of violating ‘the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) of 2000.’ Then how about ‘institutionalizing’ these Muslims at Guantanamo Bay??

    Like

    • They will bomb it themselves so that they can blame islamaphobic. Try and claim the insurance!

      Cctv will show a bearded man with a rucksack wearing a bed sheet and sandals !!!!

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  3. The Americans should just change the law to enforce an independent body to oversee all sermons and to shut down all mosques that preach hate and do not accept gays, Jews, Christians and fight against paedophilia. They should charge the cost for the independent overseer to the mosque.

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  4. The people of that town should not have to, pay a penny to this trash
    The town should be paid 10 million for the problems these people caused them.
    Come on folks let’s plant some pigs on that property

    – Jacquie

    >

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  5. What faith, Islam?
    The only faith Islamists have is the faith that they will have control of the west in a few short years and the Jews and Christians will submit or pay the jizya willingly.

    Islam is a theocracy bent on conquest. It has done this for 1400 years and counting and it won’t stop until the job is complete.

    Islam is worse than Nazism but sadly, we have the Nazis in America who are supporting Islam.
    The radicals in this organization call it “Antifa” (Anti-First Amendment) now but it works the same way as Nazism.
    The comparisons between what is happening in Europe and America are very similar to what happened prior to WWII. The Hitler youth, the brown shirts, terrorized the German, Austrian, Czech, and Polish people into going their way or else suffer the consequences.

    History is repeating itself and our young people are too stupid to realize it, and the end result, this time, is going to be much worse than it was in WWII. Trust me.

    Like

  6. Muhammadans should be expelled. And until they are, I want them barred from filing as defendants in our courts. Our courts exist to preserve our civilization, not as battering rams and wrecking balls to destroy it.

    Liked by 1 person

Published under FAIR USE of factual content citing US 17 U.S.C. § 107 fair use protection, Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976 and UK Section 30(1) of the 1988 Act.

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