BERNARDS — Efforts to resolve a dispute over a proposed mosque are moving toward a resolution that would avoid more time in court.

A federal judge on New Years Eve ruled that Bernards Township's planning board violated federal law and discriminated against a Muslim group that’s been trying to build a mosque in the Liberty Corner neighborhood when the township turned down an application from the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge. reported that a letter from township attorney John. F.X. Peloso to District Court Judge Lois Goodman described "substantial progress" toward a settlement in a mediation session with attorneys for the ISBR and a former federal judge appointed to the case.

Residents opposed to the mosque cited traffic and other concerns, but the ISBR claimed "anti-Muslim sentiment" from both residents and the township council led to the decision.

The judge in his ruling disagreed with the township planning board's determination that zoning rules outlining parking regulations for a "church" would only apply to a Christian house of worship. But the the judge did not address accusations of overt discrimination or hostility toward Muslims.

The denial — which came after 39 hearings spanning nearly four years — sparked a federal lawsuit by the Islamic group as well as a Justice Department action against the Somerset County township. Dozens of religious and civil liberties groups joined the Islamic Center’s lawsuit.

Officials have defended their actions and denied they were motivated by religious bigotry.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at

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