U.S. Justice Department says town’s refusal to allow mosque construction is religious discrimination.
The U.S. Justice Department said Thursday it is suing a Pennsylvania community for religious discrimination over the town’s refusal to grant a permit to build a mosque.
The lawsuit alleges that Bensalem Township violated a religious land use act when it refused to grant zoning approval “to allow the Bensalem Masjid to build a mosque on three adjoining parcels of land in the township,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
The denial “imposed a substantial burden on the Bensalem Masjid’s religious exercise,” treating them “less favorably than the township treats nonreligious assemblies,” and “discriminated against [them] on the basis of religion,” the DoJ said.
Bensalem Township, population 60,000, is located some 30 kilometers northeast of Philadelphia. “Our Constitution protects the rights of religious communities to build places of worship free from unlawful interference and unnecessary barriers,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The Department “will continue to challenge unjustified local zoning actions around the country when they encroach upon this important civil right,” Gupta said.
There is no mosque in Bensalem Township. Muslim residents currently meet for Friday prayers at a rented fire station hall.