Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Freedom of Religion means all religions
And the fundamental rights enumerated in the Constitution are are not subject to popular vote. The New Jersey town of Basking Ridge found these truths to be quite evident at the cost to its taxpayers of $3.25 Million.
The 2015 decision made by the planning board in Bernards Township, N.J., a majority-white suburb of 26,000 people, came after significant public opposition to the mosque that thrust the community into the national spotlight and spurred religious discrimination lawsuits from the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge and the Department of Justice.I hope the Satanists are paying attention. Religion makes people goofy and can lead to their paying out big money.
On Tuesday, the township learned the cost of its six-year-old decision: $3.25 million.
As part of a settlement of the suits, the township must allow construction of the mosque to begin at its original proposed location, according to the Justice Department. Bernards Township will pay the Islamic Society $1.5 million in damages and $1.75 million in attorney fees and require town officials to submit to diversity and inclusion training.
“Municipalities around the country should pay close attention to what happened in Bernards Township,” Adeel A. Mangi, lead counsel for the mosque, told My Central Jersey. “The American Muslim community has the legal resources, the allies and the determination to stand up for its constitutional rights in court and will do so.”
The board hadn’t denied a building application for a house of worship in at least 20 years. It defended its 2015 decision by citing code changes created after the Islamic Society filed its application.
In 2011, the organization purchased a four-acre plot on Church Street for the mosque. It was in a residential zoning district that allowed places of worship, as long as they were built on properties with three or more acres.
Then in 2013, the township enacted a new ordinance that changed raised the minimum acreage to six. The township also said the mosque needed more parking spaces than churches or synagogues because of worship schedules.
In 2016, the Islamic Society sued the town in federal court and a Department of Justice complaint followed, alleging that the town discriminated based on religion.
“Federal law requires towns to treat religious land use applications like any other land use application,” Acting U.S. attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “Bernards Township made decisions that treated the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge differently than other houses of worship. The settlement announced [Tuesday] corrects those decisions and ensures that members of this religious community have the same ability to practice their faith as all other religions.”
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