- Associated Press - Friday, January 6, 2017

BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) - An upscale New Jersey town spent more than $200,000 defending two federal lawsuits filed after it blocked an Islamic group from building a mosque on property it owns, according to township records.

Through November, Bernards Township has spent nearly $219,000 defending itself against the lawsuits brought last year by the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge and U.S. Department of Justice, NJ.com reported (http://bit.ly/2iQHAmG ) Friday. The township passed three resolutions on Dec. 16 that authorized another $247,500 to be spent in defending the lawsuits.

The township’s attorney didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Township administrator Bruce McArthur said the township’s insurance carrier, QBE Specialty Insurance Company, has agreed to pay any legal fees and damages awarded in the Islamic society’s federal lawsuit.

The society sued the town in March, several months after its application to build the mosque was denied after more than three years and 39 public hearings. The society’s lawsuit said it spent more than $450,000 over the time is was seeking approval.

The township could face $1 million in potential fees if it appeals a federal judge’s recent ruling that it violated anti-discrimination laws by insisting the proposed mosque have more parking spaces than churches or synagogues, according to Jenny-Brooke Condon, a law professor and director of the Equal Justice Clinic at Seton Hall University.

An attorney with a New York City firm that represents the plaintiffs declined to estimate what it has accrued in attorney fees to date.

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Information from: NJ.com, http://www.nj.com

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