Proposed Mosque Angers and Divides State

An affluent and beautiful New Jersey suburb called Bernards has been imbued into a heated debate over a proposed mosque, as well as the value of the residents’ free speech rights who oppose the project. Around 30 residents who voiced out against the project at dozens of public meetings concerning the mosque proposal have been subpoenaed in an effort by the plaintiffs to prove “bigotry” drove the decision.

The towns of about 27,000 people is an hour west of New York City, and has been dealing with the ethical controversy since early 2011. The Bernards Planning Board took up a proposal for a 4,250-square-foot mosque in a residential neighborhood known as Liberty Corner.

The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge made the application to create the mosque. The Islamic group has won the support of several civil and religious liberty advocate groups, including the ACLU, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Muslim Advocates of San Francisco.

They acquired the support of the former Bernards mayor, who has filed a federal civil rights suit accusing members of the board of religious discrimination because of their disapproval of the project.

“This is a land use matter. It never was about religion,” current Bernards Mayor Carol Bianchi told news outlets. “Anyone who takes the time to review the transcripts or knows our Planning Board members would draw this conclusion quickly.”

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