Zoning Variance Requirement for Mosque Enjoined by U.S. Judge
The suit includes a count under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violation of the right to free exercise of religion under the First and Fourteenth amendments.
It also alleges violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 200, the Municipal Land Use Law and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
Bridgewater moved for summary judgment, saying the claims were not ripe because no variance application had been filed.
But Shipp cited precedent from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that a final decision is not needed when a landowner challenges an ordinance.
He also found that the residents' "animus" and the ordinance's expedited passage create "a genuine issue of material fact such that summary judgment would be inappropriate at this juncture."
Shipp granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction after finding that the ordinance could cause irreparable injury and that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits.
He cited their assertions that the lack of a permanent home for the mosque impedes its growth and its ability to raise money and attract a permanent imam.
Shipp also said the "temporal nexus between the application and the implementation of the ordinance undermines defendant's claim that the ordinance was in furtherance of a compelling government interest."
Plaintiff lawyer Peter Zimroth, of Arnold & Porter in New York, says the fast pace of the ordinance's adoption was key.
"The ordinary process for changing a zoning law takes way longer than what happened here," he says.
Howard Cohen of Parker McCay in Lawrenceville, who represented Bridgewater, did not return a call.