Says Town’s Rejection of Mosque Construction “Troubling” and “Simply Unacceptable”
New York, NY, May 11, 2016 … The Interfaith Coalition on Mosques (ICOM) today joined a friend-of-the court brief filed on behalf of a coalition of civil rights and interfaith organizations in support of The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (ISBR). Filed with a federal court in New Jersey, the brief asserts that the Township of Bernards discriminatorily denied the congregation’s land-use application to construct a mosque.
Formed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in 2010, ICOM is comprised of individuals and organizations from different faith traditions – Christian, Jewish and Muslim. It provides support and stands with Muslims when their rights to expand or build religious institutions are being violated.
“All levels of government, including municipalities, must treat all faiths and religious institutions equally,” said Rabbi David Fox Sandmel, ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs. “Equal treatment is not only the right thing to do, but it is legally required. The evidence in this case, however, plainly demonstrates that the Township of Bernards rejected The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge’s land use application simply because the congregation is Muslim. This is troubling and ICOM is confident that the District Court will rule in the Islamic Society’s favor.”
“The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge was held to a different standard than every other house of worship in the community, and that is simply unacceptable,” said Joshua Cohen, ADL New Jersey Regional Director. “The town’s discriminatory actions resulted in a denial of the congregation’s right to construct a house of worship, and we hope that the Court will affirm our robust history of religious liberty and inclusion by ruling in favor of the congregation.”
The brief argues that after ISBR filed a land use application to build a mosque on a piece of land that was purchased, the Township Committee, against a backdrop of strong anti-Muslim sentiment and incidents, enacted an overly subjective land-use ordinance that empowered it to discriminate. Unfairly applying the ordinance’s onerous lot coverage and parking requirements, the Committee rejected the application in violation of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) as well as the U.S. Constitution.
The brief in the case, The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge v. Township of Bernards, was prepared by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, and the law firm of Reich and Paolella LLP.