The City of Bayonne, New Jersey has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed this past summer by Bayonne Muslims, asserting that the city discriminated against the Muslim group after denying variances needed to convert an abandoned warehouse to a mosque (read our previous post about the lawsuit here). As part of the settlement, the city will pay Bayonne Muslims $120,000 and Bayonne Muslims’ law firm $280,000. Under the agreement, the city will allow the development of the mosque, subject to a favorable vote by the zoning board. The proposed mosque is not to be used “for unrelated functions during prayer services,” there will be no on-site kitchen or cooking, and Bayonne Muslims “will add a second or third Friday services as needed if it exceeds capacity and seeks to accommodate additional worshippers.” The zoning board will hold a hearing to consider the settlement agreement and Bayonne Muslims’ renewed application for variance relief to develop the mosque with 135 prayer mats.
Bayonne Muslims’ President, Abdul Hamid Butt, issued a statement: “We are so grateful for the support of so many of our fellow Bayonne residents through this long struggle and we commend the City of Bayonne for moving now to correct the wrong that was done to Bayonne’s Muslims. We are confident our application, considered on its merits, will be approved and we look forward to welcoming Bayonne residents of all faiths to the City’s first mosque.”
What is not clear is whether the U.S. Department of Justice will continue with its investigation into the city’s processing of the mosque application for possible religious discrimination, given that a settlement has been reached. More on the DOJ’s investigation is available here.
The settlement agreement in Bayonne Muslims v. City of Bayonne (D. N.J. 2018) is available here.