Mosques have started popping up all over the country under the watchful eye of the lawyers with the Department of Justice and several Muslim based non-profit organizations. Just when it seemed like it was impossible to fight one coming to your town, there is hope. A group of citizens in New Jersey have banned together to fight for their right to be heard and demand that there be no further deals made in secret to work around local laws.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has recently gotten into the business of playing the bully to force small towns to build mosques without regard to local zoning or building codes. Some of these mosques enter residential areas and turn quiet neighborhoods into busy worship centers open into the early morning every day. In those cases, residents were strong armed by the DOJ to not complain. The DOJ has also manipulated local governments into agreeing to large cash settlements to the mosque builders to avoid massive courtroom battles.
When one township in New Jersey had enough of secret deals and mosque builders being above the laws, they took action. New Jersey attorney Mr. Michael Hryack filed a lawsuit late last week against Bernards Township. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of long time resident Cody Smith in the Superior Court of New Jersey. Hryack is affiliated with The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), which is a public interest law firm out of Michigan. The lawsuit is specifically asking that the deal made with the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge to build their mosque be voided.
According to a press release:
“The lawsuit alleges that various governmental entities of Bernards Township violated the New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act (the so-called Sunshine Law) when they entered into settlements with the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (Islamic Society). The Islamic Society and the DOJ had filed lawsuits in federal court alleging that the Township had discriminated against the Islamic Society when it declined to approve the construction of a large mosque on a lot that was far too small to handle the contemplated structure. However, the Township agreed to settle the cases without ever disclosing to the public the terms of those agreements. New Jersey courts have routinely held that the New Jersey Sunshine Law requires that the terms of proposed settlement agreements in land use lawsuits be disclosed to the public and open for public comment before any settlement is reached.”
Before filing the lawsuit, resident Cody Smith made several attempts to gather information about the agreement drawn up between the township, the DOJ and the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge. Even though this information should have been made public, the meetings happened behind closed doors, and the full details were not disclosed. Smith through his attorney is now suing to have the whole agreement voided because of the lack of public information.
According to the President and Chief Counsel of TMLC, Richard Thompson:
“There must be transparency in government. The attempt to shroud these settlements in secrecy is outrageous. Citizens have a right to know what agreements their elected officials are considering making in their names. Furthermore, these citizens have a right to have their public objections heard by their elected representatives before any vote is taken on a settlement.”
This is not the first involvement the TMLC has had with this particular township. Before the DOJ stepping into strong arm the locals, residents who dared to speak out against the mosque were harassed. Even though none of the residents who attended town hall meetings to oppose the mosque were in positions to stop the buildings, they were sued. Average citizens were targeted by outlandish subpoenas that made demands to see all their emails, social media posts, voicemails or any other communications about the Muslim faith, the mosque or anything relating to Islam. Because they were not attached directly to the building permits or any decisions made about the building efforts, the TMLC contends they were being harassed. The TMLC is also representing a group of citizens that felt they were being targeted because they did not support the mosque.
According to a news report about the harassment:
“TMLC represents several Bernards Township residents who were served with intrusive and harassing subpoenas by Islamic Society attorneys. Their only involvement was to make comments at a public Township hearing. They were non-parties to the lawsuit, had never had an official role in the Township and had no authority to deny the Islamic Society’s permit request. Nonetheless, the subpoenas demanded the production of emails, voicemails, text messages, and social media posts concerning Muslims, Islam, or anything to do with Muslim worship. The subpoenas clearly infringed upon their First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of association. The only purpose of the subpoenas was to punish residents who dared to oppose the Islamic Society’s request.”