A New Jersey suburb known for its tree-lined streets and stately, multimillion-dollar homes has been transformed into a battleground over both a proposed mosque and the free speech rights of residents who oppose the project.
Bernards, a township of about 27,000 an hour west of New York City, has been cleaved by controversy since 2011, when its Planning Board took up a proposal for a 4,250-square-foot mosque in a residential neighborhood known as Liberty Corner. The applicant, Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (ISBR – Ed.), is led by a former Bernards mayor and has filed a federal civil rights suit accusing members of the board of religious discrimination in ultimately rejecting the project.
…Lawyers for the Muslim organization want to interview residents who spoke out against the mosque, and to review their email messages, social media posts and any other evidence they say may prove they were motivated by bias.
…the ISBR’s lawyers subpoenaed the residents as well as eight current and former Planning Board members. One resident who was subpoenaed told FoxNews.com attorneys for ISBR seemed to be seeking evidence of a conspiracy. The resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the meeting was unnerving.
“I spoke out once, at one meeting,” the resident said. “I was tangentially involved. I clearly felt like it was a fishing expedition, that they were looking to find anything to support their case.
“For me, this has a chilling effect,” the resident added. “It was scary. They came to my home in the middle of the night to serve me the papers. I feel like I will never speak up in a public forum again.”