BRIDGEWATER – An Islamic group, the Al Falah Center, has filed a lawsuit against Bridgewater Township in Somerset County, seeking to compel the town to allow Al Falah to move forward with plans to renovate an existing building so it could be used as a mosque and community center.
The township changed its zoning laws, transforming the applicable zoning for the proposed mosque property to prohibit rather than permit development of a house of worship, according to the lawsuit. The move effectively brought the project to a halt, according to Al Falah officials.
The complaint, which was filed in federal district court in New Jersey on Tuesday, alleges that the new zoning ordinance prevents members of the Muslim community from freely exercising their religion and discriminates against them on the basis of religion. After a lengthy search, the congregation identified a former banquet hall as the location they wanted to turn into a mosque.
The complaint alleges that in changing the law to exclude the mosque, Bridgewater violated the Al Falah Center’s federal constitutional rights under the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, as well as the corresponding protections of New Jersey’s Constitution.