The U.S. Department of Justice has opened up an investigation into the Bayonne Zoning Board of Adjustment’s March rejection of a proposed mosque, a state official confirmed.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Matt Reilly, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney’s Office of New Jersey, confirmed this morning that a federal investigation was underway, declining to comment further.
The decision comes days after the Bayonne Muslims, the group who proposed the Muslim community center project at 109 East 24th St., filed a federal lawsuit.
The suit alleges that the city zoning board violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and that the governing board caved in to a strong anti-Muslim sentiment that existed within the community.
Although the zoning board members who voted against cited parking and traffic issues as the reason for voting down the project (the vote was 4-3, but the application needed five votes to pass), the suit cites a number of hostile comments posted online.
One example was a commenter on change.org petition to stop the mosque which read “Why should Bayonne bend over backwards for these warmongers.”
Among the other many instances cited by the Bayonne Muslims in their lawsuit, where they are represented by Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, of New York, they mention the October graffiti incident where phrases such as f*** Allah and f*** Arabs were spray painted on a local Muslim place of worship.
Lead counsel for the case, Adeel Mangi, said in a statement that the recent $3.25 million settlement in Bernard Township over a failed mosque proposal is a good indicator of what will happen here.
“Municipalities around the country should pay close attention to what happened in Bernards Township,” he said.
“The American Muslim community has the legal resources, the allies, and the determination to stand up for its constitutional rights in court and will do so.”
City officials declined to comment on either the lawsuit or the federal investigation surround the failed mosque proposal.
However, shortly after the zoning board vote, both Mayor Jimmy Davis and Nick Chiaravalloti warned residents that the decision would up the city up to litigation in the future.