February 2017 Church & State - February 2016

N.J. Can’t Subject Mosque To Higher Parking Requirements

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A federal judge has ruled that a New Jersey town cannot require a mosque to have more parking spaces on its property than churches and synagogues, marking what activists hope is the end of a four-year legal battle. 

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp’s Dec. 31 ruling gave the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge a win against Ber­nards Township, which, after 39 planning board meetings, rejected a plan by local Muslims to construct a mosque.

In December of 2015, township officials said the mosque would have to build a “supersized” parking lot, a requirement that has not been applied to other houses of worship in the community.

In its lawsuit, the mosque alleged that the township’s requirement specifically targeted Muslims.

“Mosques are under assault throughout the country,” Adeel Mangi, the mosque’s attorney, told Judge Shipp. After the win, Mangi told NJ.com, a news site, that the win “truly is a landmark ruling with national impact.”

The township may appeal Judge Shipp’s decision, according to a statement from its mayor, Carol Bianchi.

“The Township will consider how to best move forward including appealing the decision when ripe for appeal,” the statement read. In legal arguments, the township’s attorney states that they did not target a specific religion.

“It’s based simply on the parking needs of the applicant,” Howard Mankoff, the township’s attorney, told Judge Shipp in oral arguments Dec. 20. (Islamic Society of Basking Ridge v. Township of Bernards)

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