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Neighbors: Mosque fight about location, not discrimination

BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — Residents of a New Jersey town insist that their opposition to a proposed mosque is about the location and not religious intolerance.

Bernards Township homeowners asked officials at a town meeting Wednesday not to settle a lawsuit that the Justice Department filed against the town last year after it denied the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge’s plan for a mosque, NJ.com reported (http://bit.ly/2q7PomV ).

Many homeowners said they have no problem with Muslims, but that they are concerned with traffic and preserving the historic nature of Liberty Corner, a community in the township. Residents said the society can find another location.

“I have nothing against Muslims,” said resident Paul Zubulake. “It’s just an inappropriate location.”

Not all residents agreed and some took the town to task for blocking the mosque.

“The criticism and efforts to block the Muslims from building this mosque have been bogus,” said James Rickey. “This town needs people who are different. It has resisted low-income housing for years. I was born here. I’m 70 years old. I don’t like the tenor of the town now. People think they live in this lovely little community and want to protect it.”

Justice Department officials said the town discriminated against the Islamic Society based on religion along with other claims.

Bernards Township’s request that the mosque have more parking spaces than other houses of worship was also deemed unconstitutional.

The Township Committee said it is looking for the “most effective path forward to mitigate the financial risk of protracted litigation.”

A similar lawsuit cost Bridgewater Township almost $8 million in a 2014 settlement.

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