Al Falah Center Files Suit Against Bridgewater

The center claims the township's new zoning ordinance violates religious freedom.

The Al Falah Center filed a suit against Bridgewater Tuesday, alleging that the township's new zoning ordinance that requires houses of worship to be on major roads prevents members of the Muslim community from exercising their freedom of religion.

According to a release from the center Wednesday, the suit is seeking to require the town to allow the Al Falah Center to move forward with plans to renovate the former Redwood Inn on Mountain Top Road to be used as a mosque and community center.

The plan for the mosque was brought before the planning board in February, but was sent over to the zoning board after the township approved a zoning ordinance that requires houses of worship and other buildings to have entrance on major roads, of which Mountain Top Road is not one.

With the , the mosque was no longer a permitted use on the property and required a variance from the zoning board.

Residents had expressed concern over the proposed mosque in several meetings, saying that it would increase traffic in the area, and that they would prefer to see it built on a more major road like Route 22.

Supporters of the Al Falah Center have presented suspicions about why the ordinance was approved so quickly after the application for the mosque had already been filed.

According to the press release, the complaint was filed in federal district court in New Jersey Tuesday, and also alleges that the new zoning ordinance discriminates against the Muslim community on the basis of religion.

After searching for a suitable location for the mosque for years, the release says, Muslims from Bridgewater and surrounding communities found the former Redwood Inn, and developed a plan with township officials for renovating the building.

According to the release, the renovation included creating a place for a house of worship, day care, religious school and community center.

But, the release says, hundreds of people showed up at planning board meetings, after what it calls an "anti-Muslim Internet campaign," to protest the project and "the township suddenly changed its course."

The release states that the township then illegally rushed through a change to the zoning rules, citing traffic concerns—which are not mentioned as the reason for the zoning changes in the township's documents.

The release also says that the complaint alleges the township violated the Al Falah Center's constitutional rights under the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment in approving the zoning ordinance. The complaint also cites violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, according to the release.

Sharyn May 03, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Margo May 05, 2011 at 02:27 AM
anyone but native americans are guests, so let's be civil.. with respect to the "other" issue, if residents are against the center, maybe it's time to move on..
Lisa May 20, 2011 at 03:45 AM
I feel that the issue is best handled in a matter that shows fairness and openness while at the same turn upholding what is in the best matter of the environmental area and surroundings of the proposal. It seems that a full environmental impact study has been done on the Redwood Inn site.. Possibly there are rare owls or even frogs or turtles residing there. It could take a long time to figure out exactly what animals live on that property and how their way of live could be jeaopordized especially by putting in a large parking area. It would be quicker and less complicated to simply move the temple to another site along a major thorofare in the area.
Gerianne May 21, 2011 at 06:25 PM
Thank you for the common sense! Having been at the Redwood for several functions following snow storms and icy conditions I often wondered what would happen if there were to be an emergency on the road. Just as good fences make good neighbors, pushy people make poor ones. Grow up, and find a more suitable location in the area. I am so sick of being accused of racism every time anyone disagrees with what is said or done by anyone with different viewpoints. It is getting old fast. And those making the loudest noise do not even live in the area.
Gerianne May 21, 2011 at 06:31 PM
Whene I arrive somewhere and am obviously not welcomed, I generally find someplace else to be my comfort zone. Does this not make sense? The location is simply not suitable for a facility that large and busy. The Temple on Rte. 206 made accomodations to suit the residential area and is now accessed by a main highway, why is this even an issue. Bridgewater has houses of worship for just about every faith I can think of off the top of my head, why are we residents being accused of racism simply because we want to continue to live in an area that affords peace and quiet, which is what attracted us in the first place, and for which we pay property taxes. I don't recall anyone at the meetings indicating that there should not be a facility of this nature, it was and is a simple matter of a suitable location.


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