(PHILADELPHIA, PA, 9/13/17) — The Philadelphia Chapter of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) welcomes the Justice Department’s announcement of an agreement with Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania, which resolves a lawsuit alleging discrimination after the township denied zoning approval to allow the local Muslim community (“Bensalem Masjid”) to build a mosque.
The complaint alleged that Bensalem Township’s denial of a variance imposed a substantial burden on the Bensalem Masjid’s religious exercise, treated the Bensalem Masjid less favorably than the township treated nonreligious assemblies and discriminated against the Bensalem Masjid on the basis of religion.
Bensalem Masjid will now be permitted to use its properties to build a mosque and the township has agreed to review and amend its zoning ordinance to comply with the requirements of Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), among other remedial measures.
In announcing the decision, Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore said, “Federal law protects the rights of all religious communities to build places of worship free from discrimination. This agreement ensures that all citizens of Bensalem Township may freely exercise this important civil right.”
CAIR-Philadelphia Civil Rights Attorney Timothy Welbeck, Esq. remarked, “We believed Bensalem Township acted out of religious discrimination when it refused to approve the zoning for Bensalem Masjid and we are glad the United States Justice Department agreed with our conclusion. We hope the decision will set a lasting precedent.”
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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