A big controversy over a mosque has been going on for a while now in Bernards Township, NJ. Local Muslims wanted to construct a new mosque but were prevented by the city due to traffic and “other concerns.” Not surprisingly, the Muslims sued and won a $3.5 million settlement from the city as well as a requirement for a town meeting to discuss the mosque. Rather interesting, though, was an apparent stipulation in the settlement that community members were forbidden from talking about “Islam” or “Muslims”. That’s right – no talk of Islam or its adherents at a public, government meeting ABOUT A MOSQUE.
If you are a government official in that township, why on earth would you agree to that? You’ve just given them $3.5 million and now you’re going to let them dictate the speech rights of other members of the community? That’s pretty cowardly. Luckily, a couple whose home will be next to the proposed mosque has sued the city over the clear violation of free speech and the a government preference for Islam as opposed to other religions.
A New Jersey township that was sued by Muslims for refusing to approve a massive mosque project is returning to court because of a settlement agreement that restricts speech regarding Islam.
The settlement required the township to hold a public meeting about the mosque project, but it forbade anyone from commenting on “Islam” or “Muslims.”
A key tenet of Shariah, the Muslim law that governs both personal and political life, bans any negative comments about Islam or Muslims.
According to the Thomas More Law Center, which sued the township on behalf of two residents whose home is within 200 feet of the proposed mega-mosque, the settlement with Bernards Township “reads more like an instrument of surrender.”
The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge sued and won a decision in federal court after its mosque proposal was rejected based on traffic and other concerns.
The Township agreed on a $3.5 million payment and a “public hearing to approve the settlement.”
Residents Christopher and Loretta Quick challenged the agreement in court, arguing it restricts speech and violates the Establishment Clause by preferring Islam over other religions.
“The Quicks reside within 200 feet of the proposed mosque construction in a zoned residential area,” Thomas More explained. “Yet, the settlement agreement prohibits them from describing the many unique features of Islamic worship which will impact design of the building, traffic density, water and sewage, traffic control problems, road construction, and parking arrangements. According to the settlement agreement, ISBR is permitted to make statements concerning Christians and Jews and their places of worship, but in contrast, the agreement prohibits commentary relating to Islam or Muslims. In fact, ISBR has previously discussed the Christian and Jewish religions and their places of worship.”
Richard Thompson, chief counsel for Thomas More, said the Islamic center “has taken the extraordinary step of concealing significant links on their website to a radical group named by the federal government as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing trial in America history, the Islamic Society of North America (‘ISNA’).
…The Islamic center sued the township when officials refused to permit a huge project on a lot critics contend is far too small. Later, U.S. Department of Justice, then under Barack Obama, also sued the township.
The new complaint argues the First Amendment provides no open door for governments to issue blanket censorship orders on speech.
“Defendants … have put in place a prior restraint on speech that bans citizens from engaging in free speech at a public hearing on political matters because of the content,” the complaint asserts.
“The settlement agreement further allows defendants to forbid speech with which they or others disagree.”
Further, the fact that the agreement doesn’t provide the same protections to Christians, Jews and others means that “defendants have shown preference for Islam and Muslims over other religions.”
The complaint seeks a declaration that the residents’ constitutional rights are being violated, preliminary and permanent injunctions against the agreement, and damages.
More at the link.