Evangelical-Supported Islamic Society Wins Case to Build Mosque in NJ Township, $3.25M Settlement

An Islamic Society in New Jersey has won the right to build a mosque in a historic section of Bernards Township, along with a $3.25 million settlement, after its application for land use was rejected in 2012.

(Photo: Facebook/Islamic Society of Basking Ridge)A computer rendering of the planned mosque facility for the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

The Department of Justice announced Tuesday morning that they had reached a settlement with Bernards Township over the local government's initial ban on the construction of a mosque.

"As part of the agreement, Bernards Township will permit the Islamic Society to build the mosque," stated the DOJ in a press release emailed to The Christian Post.

"Additionally, the township will amend its zoning ordinance to limit the zoning restrictions placed on houses of worship. In a separate agreement between the Islamic Society and the township, the township agreed to pay $3.25 million in damages and attorneys' fees."

In December 2015, the Bernards Township rejected the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge's application to build a mosque.

"Residents cheered, applauded and were giddy with delight after the Bernards Township Planning Board unanimously voted down the application to build an Islamic mosque on Church Street," reported the Basking Ridge Patch.

"The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, Inc. had submitted an application back in September 2012 to build a 4,250 square-foot Islamic mosque on Church Street, a historic section of the township."

In response, the township was sued on the allegation that they violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.

(Photo: The Christian Post/Samuel Smith)ERLC President Russell Moore speaks at the Fifth Annual Institute on Religion and Democracy Diane Knippers memorial lecture on Oct. 14, 2015 at the City Club in Washington, D.C.

In May 2016, a diverse coalition of religious groups filed an amicus brief in support of the Islamic Society. Included in the groups involved were the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

A Muslim mosque cannot be subjected to a different land-use approval process than a Christian church simply because local protesters oppose the mosque," read the amicus brief.

At the end of 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Shipp issued a ruling in favor of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge.

The involvement of ERLC and IMB in the amicus brief was not without controversy, as many SBC members opposed the idea of the two bodies actively supporting the building of a mosque.

In February, IMB head David Platt offered an apology for the divisiveness created by his organization's involvement in the case.

"I apologize to Southern Baptists for how distracting and divisive this has been," said Platt, adding, "IMB will have a process in place to keep us focused on our primary mission: partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams for evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God."

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