BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, N.J. – A New Jersey town has approved construction of a mosque following years of debate and a $3.25 million settlement in a lawsuit.
The Bernards Township committee approved the plan Tuesday night.
The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge had sued the township last year, claiming the town changed its zoning ordinances in order to deny the group's plans. The Justice Department also sued, alleging the town treated the group differently than it treated other religious groups.
Under terms of the settlement, the township will pay the settlement figure and allow the mosque to be built. The town also agreed to limit the zoning restrictions placed on houses of worship.
Some residents insisted that their opposition to the mosque was about the location and not religious intolerance. They said they were concerned with traffic and preserving the historic nature of Liberty Corner, a community in the township. They said the society should find another location.
But others disagreed, saying efforts to block Muslims from building the mosque were "bogus."
Among other arguments, Justice Department officials said the town discriminated against the Islamic Society based on religion.
A similar lawsuit cost Bridgewater Township almost $8 million in a 2014 settlement.