The article reports:
In a new court filing, the DOJ alleges that the Bernards Township Planning Board discriminated against the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (ISBR) and violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act during a lengthy application process that ultimately resulted in the town’s denial of the proposed project.
The town is accused of discriminating against ISBR on the basis of its religion, applying standards of review to the ISBR it had not applied to other congregations and assemblies, and imposing a burden on members of the ISBR for practicing their religion.
“RLUIPA ensures that municipalities must treat religious land use applications like any other land use application,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said in a statement. “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.”
The article points out some interesting facts about the case:
The township also calls into question the propriety of a relationship between a member of the ISBR and a lead DOJ investigator. Attorneys for the township also confirm that a lawyer representing the mosque was in contact with DOJ investigators well before the planning board reached any decision regarding the ISBR’s application. “These communications, unknown by the Township at the time, suggest an inappropriate collusion with Plaintiffs rather than an unbiased review.”
The ISBR planned to buy four acres of land to construct a mosque approximately 4,200 square feet. It would be interesting to know who is paying for the mosque. The leader of the ISBR is a Pakistani immigrant named Mohammad Ali Chaudry. The other part of this issue is whether or not the residents of the town have the right to say that they don’t want the mosque located where it is planned. Leaders of the town claim it is a land use issue and not a religious issue, but in battling the Justice Department, that may not matter.
Again, we are back at the issue of state’s rights and local control. Many American mosques are funded by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in The Holy Land Foundation Trial. As much as I don’t approve of religious discrimination, all religions are not equal. There are mosques in America that are encouraging terrorism. The Justice Department would be better off spending its time and money to find out which mosques are preaching terrorism and dealing with that issue rather than getting involved in a local zoning issue. It should be up to the town to decide whether or not to allow the mosque to be built.