By Ed Diokno—Nov. 24, 2016
The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit this week against Bernards Township, New Jersey, alleging that the township violated a federal act which protects religious groups from discrimination in zoning and other land use laws.
The Department charged the township violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when it denied zoning approval to allow the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge to build a mosque on land it owns.
At the time of the Islamic Society’s zoning request, the permitting of construction of places of worship was a matter of right.
In a statement, the township “maintains that the Planning Board denial was based on legitimate land use and safety concerns which plaintiffs refused, and to this day, refuse to address. To that point, the planning board presented plaintiffs an opportunity for reconsideration to address the land use issues early on, and plaintiffs have shown no interest in complying.”
It also charges the Department of Justice with a conflict of interest stating that the President of the Islamic Society sits on the same board as Caroline Sadlowski, chief of the Civil Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey. Both sit on the the advisory board for Drew University’s Center for Religion, Culture and Conflicts.
The Department of Justice denies any conflict stating the two do not have a personal friendship and that Sadlowski received permission of her supervisor before proceeding on the case.
“Township officials kept moving the goalposts by using ever-changing local requirements to effectively deny this religious community the same access as other faiths,” said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman of the District of New Jersey.
Read more at AsAmNews.