Bernards Township, population of less than 25,000, located approx 40 miles southwest of New York City has denied zoning approval for the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge to build a mosque.
The Township unanimously voted against the Islamic Society’s application. The Justice Department claims their decision violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).
As reported by the Washington Examiner, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday it is suing Bernards Township, N.J., because it denied zoning approval for the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge to build a mosque on land it owns.
The township in December unanimously voted down the Islamic Society’s application to build a mosque, which the Justice Department says violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
In the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the department said the denial was discriminatory based on the Islamic Society’s members’ religion. The denial imposed a substantial burden on the Islamic Society’s religious exercise, according to the complaint, it said.
The complaint also alleged that the township violated the law “by amending its zoning ordinance in a manner that imposes unreasonable limitations on all religious assemblies.”
The Justice Department officials say the land where the mosque is to be build is located in a zone that permits construction of places of worship at the time of the origian zoning request.
In a statement by US Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman says, “As alleged in the complaint, Bernards Township has treated the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge differently than other houses of worship. RLUIPA ensures that municipalities must treat religious land use applications like any other land use application. But here, township officials kept moving the goalposts by using ever-changing local requirements to effectively deny this religious community the same access as other faiths.”
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