A New Jersey pastor says his home has been vandalized multiple times because of his opposition to a proposal for a new Islamic community center that was denied by a local zoning board last week.
Joseph Basile, who pastors Grace Bible Fellowship in Bayonne, New Jersey, told The Jersey Journal that somebody threw rocks through his home's window last Monday night after the Bayonne Zoning Board failed to pass a request from a group called Bayonne Muslims to set up a worship center at a warehouse on East 24th Street.
Although the board voted 4–3 in favor of the community center and the group had purchased property, the group's application did not receive the required five votes needed for the application to be granted.
Throughout the application process, Basile and his wife, Patricia, had displayed signs in their home's front windows that read "Save Bayonne" and "Stop the Mosque."
"The police are trying to determine when it occurred, but I'm not quite sure [exactly when]," Basile told the Journal.
The incident on Monday was the second time in which Basile's home had been vandalized since the start of 2017. In January, abrasive anti-Muslim remarks were spray-painted on the front of Basile's home, below the signs lodged in the window.
At the time, an official with the Bayonne Muslims decried the act of vandalism as "totally uncalled for."
"It's really unfortunate. No one has a right to vandalize. He has the right to put those signs up. There's freedom of speech. It's his house. You can't go vandalize someone's house," Waheed Akbar, secretary for the Bayonne Muslims, told PIX 11.
"I think it's kids that have nothing better to do. But I definitely don't think it's someone from the Muslim community," he added. "We don't condone it. We don't want anyone in our community doing anything like that and it's illegal."
Patricia Basile, 75, claimed last June that a stranger came to her home and threatened her to take the signs down from her home's front window. The signs had been hanging in the window since 2015.
"'This is not Alabama, take those signs down within 48 hours, or you're going to be sorry,'" Patricia Basile told the Journal, explaining that she asked if that was "a threat or a promise."
"You'll see," Basile remembered the strange 6-foot tall man telling her.
Monday's board meeting was held at Bayonne High School and lasted over five hours. The meeting provided an opportunity for dozens of people throughout the community to voice their opinion on the matter.
According to the Journal, the board members who voted against the mosque cited traffic concerns, considering the community center was to be located on a dead-end street.
However, John McDonough, a licensed city planner, told the board during the meeting that the the Islamic center would not be in conflict with regular parking areas for the mosque's surrounding areas.
Support for the building of Islamic centers and mosques has also been an issue of contention for members of the Southern Baptist community as the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention came under fire in the last year for writing an amicus brief in support of an another New Jersey mosque suing for the right to build.
A number of Southern Baptist pastors took issue with the brief, which was also signed by the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. One megachurch in Tennessee even escrowed Cooperative Program funds from the IMB because of its involvement in the brief.
In mid-February, IMB President David Platt issued an apology for the distracting and "divisive" nature of IMB's involvement in the brief.