NJ Town Officials Accused of Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Justice Department says they rejected mosque for religious reasons
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2016 10:34 AM CST
NJ Town Officials Accused of Anti-Muslim Bigotry
A rendering of the proposed mosque.   (Court douments)

The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge had its mailbox trampled and its name on the box replaced with "ISIS" while seeking permission to build a 4,400-square-foot mosque in Bernards Township, NJ. Then its 70 members feared it was all for naught when, after 39 public hearings, the township's planning board rejected the group's proposal over issues like parking spaces and storm water management, reports the New York Times. But now both the ISBC and the Justice Department have filed suit, accusing Bernards Township of violating a 2000 religious freedom law. According to the Justice Department, township committee officials belittled Islam in emails, per the Bernardsville News. One said it "owes its size and in(fl)uence to a tradition from Day One of forced conversion through violent means."

NBC News notes the township also changed a zoning rule for houses of worship after the ISBC's application had been submitted in 2012, while "fliers, social media and websites denounced the mosque," per the Justice Department. "What should have been a simple board approval for a permitted use devolved into a Kafkaesque process that spanned an unprecedented four years," the ISBC says. Bernards Township, however, says it rejected the proposal based on "legitimate land-use and safety concerns which plaintiffs refused, and to this day, refuse to address." A neighbor who opposed the mosque tells NJ.com he objected to a Presbyterian Church's application for a property improvement in 2011 for those same, non-religious reasons. That application was later rejected. (More New Jersey stories.)

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