Justice Department Sues Town That Blocked Mosque

NEWARK (AP) -

The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit Tuesday charging a New Jersey town violated federal anti-discrimination laws when it blocked an Islamic group from building a mosque on property the group had bought.

The complaint alleges the town of Bernards discriminated against the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge by amending its zoning ordinances and treating the group differently than it treated other religious groups.

It also charged the upscale community in north-central New Jersey of changing its zoning laws after the Islamic group’s application to require houses of worship in residential districts to be at least six acres — larger than the lot the group had purchased in 2011.

Eight of 11 other houses of worship built before the zoning laws were changed are on lots smaller than six acres, the complaint alleges.

That lawsuit alleged town residents opposed to the mosque made references to terrorism and questioned what children would learn in the mosque.

The town responded in a court filing that it was more concerned with issues such as storm water management, lighting and fire safety.