The Department of Justice announced Bernards Township, New Jersey must pay $3.25 million to the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge on Tuesday, May 30.
In 2011, ISBR purchased land to build a synagogue, but construction was delayed because township planners concluded there would not be sufficient parking since ISBR worship would be held on Fridays. ISBR asserts other religious denominations did not encounter such requirements when obtaining construction permits in the past, according to AP News.
“Bernards Township has treated the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge differently than other houses of worship,” said U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul J. Fishman, according to NJ.com. “(Federal law) 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.”
Michael P. Turner, a representative of Bernards Township, said the delay was not caused by any sort of discrimination. He maintains the town’s central concerns was parking, according to TheAtlantic.
“Bernards Township is a diverse and inclusive community, where for years the ISBR congregation have practiced their religion along with their neighbors unimpeded,” Turner said, according to TheAtlantic. “We remain a united township where all are welcome. This is the end of a long engagement on the application (for a construction permit) and opinions may still be varied, but it is in the best interest of the township to conclude the litigation.”
Bernards Township will settle the lawsuit by allowing the construction of the mosque to go forward, paying the $3.25 million and putting its leaders through training on federal religious-freedom law, according to TheAtlantic.