The city of Bayonne, New Jersey, has finally concluded a lawsuit, in which officials were accused of rejecting a zoning application from a local Muslim group illegal. The city has agreed to pay the group a settlement of $400,000.
In a statement, the city’s Mayor, Jimmy Davis, said, “It is in the best interest of our city that we settle this case. That we permit members of our community to have a place to gather and worship is the right thing. That we afford all residents the same opportunities is essential.”
Last year, a federal lawsuit was filed by the Bayonne Muslims claiming that the city’s zoning board’s rejection of their application to establish a permanent home was in violation of a U.S. law that prohibits local governments from imposing an undue burden on religious exercise through land use regulations.
As part of the agreement, a public hearing to approve the new mosque must be held within 30 days.
Abdul Hamid Butt, the president of the Bayonne Muslims, said, “We are so grateful for the support of so many of our fellow Bayonne residents through this long struggle and we commend the city of Bayonne for moving now to correct the wrong that was done to Bayonne’s Muslims.”
Reuters reports, “The settlement does not affect a probe opened by the U.S. Department of Justice last year into the case. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey, which launched the investigation, declined to comment on its status. In recent years, the Justice Department has settled lawsuits against numerous localities for denying mosque applications, including Bernards Township, New Jersey; Bensalem, Pennsylvania; and Des Plaines, Illinois.”
After Culpeper County, Virginia agreed to permit the construction of a mosque, a federal judge dismissed a similar Justice Department lawsuit that was against the county.
By Mark Snyder