A federal judge banned the mention of Muslims and Islam at an upcoming New Jersey town public hearing concerning an Islamic group’s request to build a mosque.
The August 8 public hearing will discuss the $3.25 million settlement the Department of Justice ordered Bernards Township to pay in May to the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge for denying their permit to build a mosque in a residential area, according to Fox News. A Christian non-profit law firm, The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), filed a federal lawsuit over the judge’s word ban on behalf of Christopher and Loretta Quick, who live within 200 feet of the site zoned for the mosque.
“Bernards Township capitulated to the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, not only paying them $3.25 million and allowing the construction of a mosque in a residential area not suited for such a building, but violated the free speech rights of its citizens by prohibiting them from commenting on Islam or Muslims at an upcoming public hearing,” Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of TMLC, told Fox News.
“Our lawsuit points out that in the complaint that gave rise to the settlement agreement, the Islamic Society made references to Christians on 24 occasions and Jews on 11 occasions. By the terms of the settlement agreement, the Islamic Society may continue to comment on Christians and Jews. The township has only prohibited comments concerning Islam and Muslims. This is un-American and runs counter to our Constitution,” Thompson added.
The Islamic group sued the township in 2016 on the grounds that they altered their zoning laws specifically to block the building of the mosque. The Justice Department also sued the township on the same charges, noting that the township’s new zoning laws demanded that houses of worship obtain plots of land at least six acres in size, which is larger than the plots of eight other houses of worship built in the same area before the zoning laws changed.
A spokesman for the township maintained that there was no instance of discrimination and that the denial of the building permit for the mosque was “based on accepted land use criteria only,” according to an Associated Press report.
The township’s main concern was parking because services are held on Fridays at the mosque, which means that congregants would most likely head straight from work to the mosque for worship.
Thompson claimed that the ensuing settlement and ban on using the words “Muslim” and “Islam” were an affront to the agreement process.
“This is not a settlement agreement. It is an instrument of surrender,” Thompson said.
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