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An Islamic group sued Bridgewater, N.J., for religious discrimination after the town changed zoning rules to block a mosque from opening in a residential neighborhood.
The Al Falah Center wanted to convert a former banquet hall located on a quiet side street into a mosque, day-care facility and community center for a diverse group of Muslim Americans who have been trying to find a home for the center more than a decade, according to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday in federal court in New Jersey.
But when the plans were making their way through the municipal channels, hundreds turned up to oppose the mosque. Though residents said their concerns were about traffic and other mundane quality-of-life issues, some people questioned where the group's funding was coming from, and whether it had ties to terrorist organizations.
On March 14, the town agreed to limit houses of worship to certain main roads and other selected roads, including all areas where current churches and temples—including for Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Sikh and Jewish congregations—were already located. Al Falah said the town deliberately jimmied with the process, pushing their planning-board application hearing until after the town changed the law, to block the mosque.
"This conduct is discriminatory and imposes a substantial burden on plaintiffs' right to the free exercise of their religion in violation of federal and state constitutional and statutory requirements," the lawsuit said.
MUHI -- thanks for the website reference. Just skimmed K. Foley's article on zoning on ISPU, and I believe if AlFalah's leaders had read that, they might have focused on locating the mosque/CC in a commercial or mixed residential/commercial area rather than deep in the heart of a completely residential neighborhood, with poor road access. Foley identifies many reasons why siting any high intensity use in an established neighborhood is usually met with strong resistance, so maybe if they'd read this, they would have pursued one of the abundant commercial properties in the area. It's disturbing Al Falah's response to valid resident concerns is a media smear campaign, a federal lawsuit and threats, rather than simply looking for a more suitable location.
May 3, 2011
Please look at the following reports regarding zone issues: http://www.ispu.org/expert-details.php?scholars=44 ISPU is an independent, nonpartisan think tank and research organization committed to conducting objective, empirical research and offering expert policy analysis on some of the most pressing issues facing the United States. These issues include US foreign policy, national security, the economy, and public health. In addition, ISPU has assembled the leading experts in the field and built a solid reputation as a trusted source for information about Muslims in the United States and abroad.
May 2, 2011
Totally disagree Ayub. I live in the neighborhood and this banquet hall has been closed for years and was seldom used for years before that -- I've lived here 10+years and have actually NEVER seen cars in the lot. A mosque/CC would bring hundreds of cars and the narrow, winding, steep, roads can't handle it. This is not xenophobia but responsible regulation of traffic and suburban planning.
April 29, 2011
I worked as a Development Review Planner for a decade, and in my professional opinion, I doubt there would be any more traffic impacts of the new mosque/CC relative to the previous Banquet Hall use. So Mr. Savo ( the Atty for the townsfolk) argues in a vacuum. This is clearly a case of xenophobia and discrimination on the basis of religious belief that wears the garb of "environmental impacts". Total Crap. Need not say more.
April 28, 2011