Mosque Files Religious Freedom Lawsuit In New Jersey

May 4, 2011

The Al Falah Center has filed a lawsuit in Federal District court accusing Bridgewater Township, New Jersey of denying its constitutionally guaranteed rights to religious freedom.

According to a press release issued by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund(AALDEF), the Al Falah Center is alleging that the Township Zoning Board suddenly altered its zoning laws to prevent construction of the mosque.

This case is by no means unique. Similar lawsuits have been brought throughout the country in recent years. The First Amendment Center has an informative post on the current state of the law regarding religious freedom entitled “Religious Buildings and Zoning.” Author John Ferguson discusses theĀ Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) and its application to cases such as this one. Although by its name it might seem that this federal statute only applied to the religious freedoms of prisoners, there is in fact a land use portion of the act. The relevant language states as follows:

“No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution,” unless the government can demonstrate that it has a “compelling governmental interest” in the regulation and there is no less-burdensome method of meeting that interest.”

Municipal governments have challenged the constitutionality of RLUIPA based upon establishment clause arguments. The Supreme Court upheld portions of the statute in Cutter v. Wilkinson involving prisoner’s rights. Land use issues were not involved, but, as Mr. Ferguson points out, the prisoner and land use portions of the statute share much the same language.

To explore this topic further, visit this site.


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