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Township Saw a Zoning Issue. The Justice Dept. Saw Religious Discrimination.
by Katie Shepherd
For nearly 10 months, a Muslim congregation in the Philadelphia suburb of Bensalem, Pa., pleaded with township officials to allow the construction of a mosque, paying for expensive traffic studies, repeatedly explaining Islamic practices, revising and re-revising design plans, and then receiving the final word: No.
Then last month, the Justice Department stepped in, charging that the Bensalem Township zoning hearing board had violated federal religious land-use laws by denying the congregation's application after it had granted zoning exemptions for other religious construction projects.
"We were just asking for our mosque, and we just wanted to be treated like everyone else," said Imtiaz Chaudhry, a physician and member of the Bensalem Masjid congregation.
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