Philadelphia: Muslim congregation sues Bensalem to build mosque

A Muslim congregation in suburban Philadelphia has filed a federal suit against Bensalem, claiming the township has violated its constitutional rights by denying them permission to build a mosque.

The congregation, the Bensalem Masjid, is comprised of about 200 families who have worshiped for six years in a rented firehall on Bensalem Boulevard. During that time, they have sought to build a mosque on a 4.5 acre parcel leased to the Masjid on the 3800 block of Hulmesville Road, a corridor which is already home to four houses of worship. According to the suit, the congregations repeatedly has been rebuffed in their attempts to get a zoning variance to build a 17,000 square foot structure with 154 parking spaces.

Bensalem officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

In Bensalem, there are only 35 parcels zoned for houses of worship, the suit states. Twenty of those lots are occupied by other religious institutions, four are used as parks and recreation areas, five are cemeteries and six are in use as schools or institutional residences.

The Masjid has petitioned the township to make an exception since there are no other parcels of land zoned for religious use…