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Bernards Township, NJ - NJ Town That Denied Mosque Permit To Pay Islamic Group $3.25M

Published on: May 30, 2017 01:38 PM
By: AP
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FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 23, 2016, file photo, Iftakhar Ahmad, top, a visiting religious leader from Pakistan, leads a prayer service at the Bernards Township Community Center in Basking Ridge, N.J. Bernards Township, N.J., will pay $3.25 million to the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge to settle a lawsuit over the township's denial of a permit to build a mosque, the U.S. Justice Department announced Tuesday, May 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 23, 2016, file photo, Iftakhar Ahmad, top, a visiting religious leader from Pakistan, leads a prayer service at the Bernards Township Community Center in Basking Ridge, N.J. Bernards Township, N.J., will pay $3.25 million to the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge to settle a lawsuit over the township's denial of a permit to build a mosque, the U.S. Justice Department announced Tuesday, May 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Bernards Township, NJ - A New Jersey town will pay an Islamic group $3.25 million to settle a lawsuit over its denial of a permit to build a mosque, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.

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Under the settlement, the group will be allowed to build the mosque and the town agreed to limit the zoning restrictions placed on houses of worship.

The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge sued Bernards Township, an upscale town in central New Jersey, last year, claiming it changed its zoning ordinances in order to deny the group’s plans. The Justice Department also sued the town last year, alleging it treated the group differently than other religious groups.

The $3.25 million is to settle the Islamic Society’s lawsuit against the town, split into $1.75 million for attorneys’ fees and costs and $1.5 million for damages.

Messages left with Bernards Township Mayor Carolyn Gaziano and an attorney representing the town weren’t immediately returned Tuesday.

Town officials previously had argued that the mosque rejection was based on legitimate land use and safety concerns.

Central among those was parking: Township planners had concluded that because Friday afternoon was considered peak worship time, congregants would most likely be arriving straight from work and would each need a parking space.

But a federal judge disagreed, and wrote in a ruling Dec. 31 that the town hadn’t conducted similar assessments of worship habits when churches or synagogues had made applications.

The Justice Department lawsuit also alleged the town changed its zoning laws to require houses of worship in residential districts to be at least 6 acres — larger than the lot the Islamic Society had purchased in 2011.

Eight of 11 other houses of worship built before the zoning laws were changed are on lots smaller than 6 acres, the complaint alleged.

A similar lawsuit cost nearby Bridgewater Township almost $8 million in a 2014 settlement.

Last week, a Muslim group sued the city of Bayonne, claiming its proposal to convert an abandoned warehouse into a mosque and community center was unfairly voted down amid a climate of hostility and religious intolerance.



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Read Comments (7)  —  Post Yours »

1

 May 30, 2017 at 05:19 PM Liepa Says:

These muslims characters know how to make money and these stupid PC judges know how to help them !!!

2

 May 30, 2017 at 05:50 PM georgeg Says:

> But a federal judge disagreed, and wrote in a ruling Dec. 31 that the town hadn’t conducted similar assessments of worship habits when churches or synagogues had made applications.

Perhaps some real-life exposure should be required for training judges. Start with the fact that things change. A near-empty proto-town has a different set of considerations than a crowded town. Traffic problems? Not a consideration in a semi-empty town. Things change dramatically as it becomes more crowded. I know, When I moved as a child here in the northern section of Toronto, it was literally all tress (forest), and all farmland just minutes (on foot) away across the town boundary. There is no way that the zoning laws today, crowded with apartments buildings on both sides of the city boundary, can possibly be, nor should they be, the same as they were in the 1960's.

A little internet search reveals that in 2011, the Presbyterian Church very near to where the mosque would later want to build, was denied its permit for expansion. The first application for a permit by the proposed mosque was in 2012.

3

 May 30, 2017 at 06:10 PM georgeg Says:

To continue with what I found on the internet. The final decision came from the planning board. No one on the planning board was named in the lawsuit as having shown any anti-Muslim attitude in either speech or behaviour. Yet the lawsuit included people irrelevant to the decision (as they had no say because they were not on the planning board) because they showed their opposition. And indeed some enormous contempt against individual Muslim persons on a personal level, which was deliberately mis-characterized as anti-Muslim.

And what the Federal government did is way over the line. Some 32 individuals, mainly private citizens who have no "final say" in anything, but merely voiced their opinions in the town meetings were subpoenaed and had to hire lawyers out of their own pocket to defend themselves.

Instead of appealing the decision, the litigant (Chaudry) launched a lawsuit, which included:

> In a document request from Chaudry's lawsuit, town officials were asked "to show endorsement of, donations to, or associations with the political campaigns of Donald J. Trump or Ted Cruz."

The irony, according to the web site, is that the town voted for Hillary.

4

 May 30, 2017 at 06:47 PM georgeg Says:

If I am allowed a little more. The lawsuit seems to have started before Trump took office, and after searching some of the characters who are litigating the lawsuit, has a distinct political stink to it.

According to some people who claim to be residents, the property in question is about 4.3 acres and was never developed during the real-estate boom exactly because it is not reasonably possible. It has a gas pipe line running trough it, it is a wetland, it is not serviced by the sewer system (it is near a farm).

These people claim that the firehouse is right across the street from the proposed mosque and they claim the mosque's own hired traffic expert admitted that the emergency route would be affected by the mosque.

5

 May 30, 2017 at 07:22 PM yamsar Says:

Reply to #1  
Liepa Says:

These muslims characters know how to make money and these stupid PC judges know how to help them !!!

Sounds to me like justice served. PC judges? How about upstanding lawful judges? If it would be Monroe township, or any of the towns near Lakewood doing it you would rightfully cry anti semitism.

6

 May 31, 2017 at 11:32 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
Liepa Says:

These muslims characters know how to make money and these stupid PC judges know how to help them !!!

Troll. ?And when they use these laws to ban synagogues?

7

 Jun 01, 2017 at 11:41 PM georgeg Says:

#5 and #6 So when Kiryat Yoel spent nearly 30 years persecuting a "dissident" sect (who rejected the new Rebbe) who just wanted to pray in their own minyan did any of you protest? And when after spending nearly 30 years creating more and more convoluted by-laws to kick them out of their building they finally found the one judge who (for reasons not clear) bucked the 30-year trend of judges refusing to kick out an established synagogue and finally kicked them out, which of you protested? And Kiryat Yovel is hardly the only such Jewish controlled area that kicks Jews out. You carry no moral high-ground when you worry only about non-Jews kicking Jews out and ignore the much graver sins of Jews kicking Jews out.

And when these Jewish controlled areas do much, much worse to expel or otherwise block non-Jews from entering Jewish controlled areas, do you protest? Selfishness and hubris do not give you the moral high ground.

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