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NJ mosque wins $3.25 million in settlement in discrimination case

Mohammad Ali Chaudry, co-founder and president of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge

(RNS) A New Jersey mosque will receive $3.25 million in damages and attorneys fees from a township that repeatedly denied it the right to build a permanent house of worship.

The settlement, announced by the Justice Department on Tuesday (May 30), was reached after the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge sued Bernards Township, about an hour’s drive west of New York City. The township, which held 39 hearings on the planned mosque — — refused to issue building permits.

“Our Constitution guarantees every religious congregation equal treatment under the law,” said Hannah Smith, senior counsel at Becket, a law firm that filed an amicus brief in support of the Islamic Society. “Every religion is a minority in some part of the country. If one religious group can be denied equal treatment because of hostility to their faith, then all religious groups are at risk.”

The Islamic Society planned to build a mosque on 4 acres it had purchased in 2012. Its co-founder and president, Mohammad Ali Chaudry, created an anti-bigotry pledge — taken by many state officials and others — in response to the harassment of mosque members as they tried to win approval for a new house of worship.

The mosque and the Department of Justice, which both sued the township, argued that the mosque had met every local zoning requirement and that the town had made up new ones that applied to no other religious community.

On Dec. 21, 2016, a federal judge ruled that the township had illegally discriminated against the mosque.

In addition to the $3.25 million payment, the township agreed to amend its zoning requirement so as to treat all religious groups equally.

About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)

19 Comments

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  • In light of laws in Mohammedan countries forbidding or severely limiting the construction of churches and synagogues (the latter being in those countries that didn’t exile their centuries-old Jewish populations in the 1950’s and 60’s) it is interesting that when the shoe is on the other foot, it doesn’t quite fit.

  • This is not true about all Muslim countries. Iran and Turkey are examples of countries with many churches and synagogues. It is true however about our “friend” and “ally” Saudi Arabia with its extreme version of Islam (Wahhabi cult). Still, we must show that our society is better than Saudis and we allow all religions to coexist here in USA.

  • “Still, we must show that our society is better than Saudis and we allow all religions to coexist here in USA.”

    My one regret is I can only upside you once here. Well said.

  • This has nothing to do with the policy of other countries. Many countries do not share the same values as stated in our constitution. So does that mean we should discriminate because other countries do? It doesn’t matter what other countries may or may not do. If we truly believe in freedom of religion that means all religions–including those we disagree with–no, especially those we may disagree with.

    Freedom of religion is a precious freedom. When we refuse those of minority religions the same freedom, we are opening ourselves up to the same treatment in the future.

  • The real problem is not a Constitutional one. It is a spiritual one. A spiritual lack of discernment. You see, the deeper reality is that Islam is not really a religion, it is geopolitical ideology dressed up in imam garb made to look like a religion. Rather it is an excersize in power and subjugation of those who don’t “submit” to its cruel ideology. Just look at Sharia law and how brutal they subjugate thier own women, not to mention the continual jihad against all infidels.
    Muslims are allowed to be deceitful in thier words, intentions and alliances in order to gain the upper hand politically. Once they do you can forget about your precious 1st amendment rights. American people really are deceived when it comes to Islam and thier true intentions. It is unapologetically world domination and utter destruction of Israel and all affiliated infidels. Wake up Sheeple, they are using our laws against us!!!

  • What a load of horse crap! There is a word for this spew: projection. And fundamentalists of every stripe wallow in it like a pig in horse pucky.

    You need only substitute Christianity for Islam, minister for imam, and conservative Christian theocracy and/or dominionist and/or biblical lawfor Sharia, and what do you have?

    A pretty accurate description of modern hyperconservative Christianity.

  • Apparently many Christians just don’t understand the Constitution and democratic principles. Freedom of religion is guaranteed for all religions. How you feel about a particular religion is irrelevant. Evangelicalism right now is just as much political as religious.

  • From Reuters

    “The U.S. government has other pending lawsuits against localities over denials of mosques, including in Bensalem, Pennsylvania; Des Plaines, Illinois; and Culpeper County, Virginia.”

    Also mentioned in the article is a lawsuit on behalf of a Bayonne, NJ group trying to build a mosque.

  • Your opinion of a religion has no bearing on the right of free exercise of religion. Freedom of religion is most for the faiths which are unpopular and despised. Not those with widespread support. Your bigotry and lack of respect for the American way of life is duly noted.

  • Unlike those countries we have freedom of religion in our Constitution so, despite the efforts of some Christians, we will not deviate or retaliate.

  • Frankly, one could argue that due to the first amendment no unit of government in the US should have the right to interfere with the construction of any religious gathering place. All religious places should be exempt from zoning or required to obtain building permits except perhaps for the most basic of public safety issues.

  • Allowing the continued operation of churches, synagogues or Hindu temples over the years has varied from country to country. There are lots of mosques in the Middle East that were churches taken over and changed by invading Muslims. There are multiple temples and shrines destroyed in the name of Islam all over India. Muslims have a really checkered history in their conquest and treatment of non-Muslim peoples.

    It may not be politically correct, but one needs to keep an eye on Islam. Our “ally” Saudi Arabia through its government and wealth families has funded radical branches of Islam throughout the world.

  • Zoning can be very destructive and easily be used control developments that have no real impact on the environmental or legitimate health and safety issues. Zoning is often used to promote economic and social apartheid in this country.

  • You can say the same thing about many mosques and Jewish temples converted in Europe to churches after Muslims were defeated!

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