Mediation will begin late September to settle a federal lawsuit that accuses a New Jersey township of caving to anti-Muslim sentiment and blocking an Islamic group from building a mosque.
According to the Aug. 19 order, signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois H. Goodman, attorneys for the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge and Bernards Township, New Jersey, will meet before retired Judge Joel A. Pisano, beginning Sept. 23, to resolve allegations in the suit brought in March.
The society accuses the township of violating its constitutional rights by denying an application to build a 4,252-square-foot mosque after four years of hearings. The lawsuit alleges the board applied different land-use requirements for Muslim and non-Muslim houses of worship, and changed zoning rules while the mosque application was pending to make it more difficult to obtain approval.
The society also said it received anti-Muslim flyers and was targeted with anti-Muslim rhetoric, which it accuses the board of capitulating to.
The planning board, however, maintains it denied the society’s application because of land-use considerations, saying it failed to satisfy certain parking and landscaping requirements. The board also passed a resolution in April, allowing the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge to apply for a rehearing on its proposed mosque.
But the society argued the board lost jurisdiction over the land-use application once it filed the federal lawsuit, calling the resolution an attempt “to retrospectively manufacture evidence” to support its defense.
The lawsuit comes as other houses of worship with South Asian congregations have filed similar land-use complaints in federal court. Most recently, a Sikh congregation sued a Long Island town in June for halting construction on its new temple, arguing that officials did so to allegedly appease some residents who were "hostile towards the temple and its religious worship."