Vote Taking Place Over Controversial N.J. Mosque (Updated)

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by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  December 7, 2015   

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Update, Dec. 8, 2015: The Liberty Corner mosque has been denied. The planning board voted 4–2 against the mosque, while a packed house assembled in town hall awaited the outcome. The vote ends a contentious review that has gone on for more than three years.

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LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A vote on a proposed mosque in a small suburb in New Jersey is taking place today, and is causing no shortage of debate.

Liberty Corner, a historic hamlet located in Somerset Hills — close to the Ford Mansion where George Washington encamped for the winter, and where former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis kept a horse farm — may soon make way for a 4,500-square-foot mosque complete with a minaret facing Mecca, if the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (ISBR) gets its way.

The vote, set to take place today in the Bernards Township Planning Board, comes after three and a half years of contentious debate, after the ISBR proposed to tear down a private home and replace it with the mosque. Dozens of public meetings — always packed and often emotionally charged — have taken place, with the majority in attendance expressing disfavor towards the proposed structure. A September gathering involved multiple objections based on religious grounds, with one of the louder objectors, cheered on by about 60 in attendance, eventually having to be escorted out by police. 

In addition to religious concerns over the mosque, residents have also argued against the building based on land use grounds, as the size of the construction — which would include a 107-space parking lot, as well as the Islamic call to prayer five times a day — would increase traffic and noise in the sleepy suburb.

One resident of Liberty Corner, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke with ChurchMilitant.com, and said the debate "hasn't been about religion at all." Rather, residents against the mosque have started a website listing a number of secular concerns related to potential violations of the local land use ordinance, including:

  • public safety and traffic congestion at the accident-prone intersection of Somerville Road / Church Street and the surrounding busy intersections
  • proposed lighting for the structure and parking lot
  • potential wetlands and environmental issues
  • the inevitability of future growth, given statements by ISBR representatives that the facility will be adequate for only 10 years   

Both sides have secured attorneys to argue their case, with counsel for ISBR claiming the proposed mosque — whose plans have undergone multiple revisions over the past three years — meets all the ordinance requirements, while the opposition insists violations remain.

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Site of the proposed mosque

The four-acre property in question, currently owned by the ISBR, is located at 124 Church Street, sandwiched between two residential homes and right across the street from Liberty Corner Fire Company, which prominently displays a piece of the World Trade Center destroyed during the 9-11 attacks. The suburb, only an hour's commute from Manhattan, is home to several families that were victims of the terrorist attacks, and thus the issue is a particularly sensitive one to the community.

The meeting for the vote will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the municipal building at 1 Collyer Lane in Basking Ridge. Residents are asking for prayers for a just outcome.

 

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