Pennsylvania Town Unlawfully Bans Mosque
Bensalem, PA – Earlier in September, a Pennsylvania town settled a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice that alleged the town illegally denied plans for a proposed mosque. The town of Bensalem, Pennsylvania is at the center of the disputes; it has a population of 60,000 people bordering northeastern Philadelphia.
While Bensalem did not admit wrongdoing in the , it will pay $250,000 to settle a separate lawsuit filed by the religious group that had sought permission to build a new prayer center, “Bensalem Masjid” (“Masjid” is Arabic for “mosque”). As of 2014, Bensalem Masjid included 200 families and had sought to build a 16,900-square-foot (1,570-square-meter) mosque. The settlement will help the group build a new mosque once it secures the necessary permits from the town.
“The Bensalem Masjid is very pleased that a solution could be achieved, and looks forward to building a place of worship that can serve its members and their children for generations to come,” explained Manzoor Chaudhry, a Bensalem Masjid spokesman.
Regarding the government’s action, the Acting Assistant Attorney General stated, “Federal law protects the rights of all religious communities to build places of worship free from discrimination.”
According to the Justice Department’s 2016 complaint, Bensalem’s city zoning board treated the Muslim group harsher than other organizations or religious groups that had made similar applications and was eventually denied.
Some instances of religious discrimination play out in the workplace. Under federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Law of 1964, prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s religion and requires that employers attempt to reasonably accommodate religious accommodations.
Specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers “from rejecting accommodation requests based on their disagreement with an employee’s belief; their opinion that the belief is unfounded, illogical, or inconsistent in some way; or their conclusion that an employee’s belief is not an official tenet or endorsed teaching of any particular religion or denomination.”
All people with sincere religious beliefs must be treated equally, regardless of whether their beliefs are shared by their church hierarchy, so long as the religious practice does not impose an undue hardship. The EEOC explained that under Title VII, an accommodation “may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.” Whether something is an “undue hardship” is a factual question that is best left to a jury. Moreover, employers must conduct individualized evaluations of employees’ requests for accommodation based on religion or disability.
The Title VII protects not only people who belong to major organized religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, but also others with sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs. Likewise, for individuals living in the State of Pennsylvania, or City of Philadelphia, there are additional protections.
The experienced Philadelphia discrimination and sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC have years of experience litigating claims of religious discrimination. Working together with our New York City attorneys, we have recovered millions on behalf of our clients who were discriminated against because of their religion. If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your religion, sex, or another protected status under the law, please give our attorneys a call at (800) 807-2209 for your free consultation.