Attorney General Loretta Lynch
(R) with Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights
Division, at the Justice Department headquarters in Washington on July
8, 2016. (AP photo)
suing a town near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for religious
discrimination because it refused to issue a permit for a mosque in
The suit, which was filed Thursday, seeks to have Bensalem Township give the Bensalem Masjid approval to build the mosque, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
suit also seeks to have the township pay unspecified damages and offer
training for the town’s employees on religious land-use laws.
of the local Islamic community sought to build a mosque after years of
renting a local fire hall for worship, but as plans moved forward, the
Bensalem Township Zoning Hearing Board ultimately rejected the
application in a 4-0 vote.
“Our Constitution protects the rights
of religious communities to build places of worship free from unlawful
interference and unnecessary barriers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant
Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil
“The Department of Justice will continue to
challenge unjustified local zoning actions around the country when they
encroach upon this important civil right.”
The Bensalem Masjid has been involved in the legal action against the town since 2014.
Masjid’s lead attorney, Roman Storzer, says the Justice Department’s
lawsuit demonstrates the seriousness of the problem in the town.
has recently spiked in the US following the recent mass shootings and
terror attacks in the US and Europe that were falsely blamed on
followers of the Islamic faith.
Anti-Islam rhetoric has also hit
the US presidential election of 2016, with GOP candidate Donald Trump
creating a furor in the country and around the world by proposing to ban
Muslims from entering the US.
The billionaire real-estate mogul
also called for a database to track Muslims across the United States,
and said the US would have no choice but to close down mosques.