Islamic Society with Questionable Background Joins Forces with Justice Department to Intimidate Citizens Opposing Mosque

Thomas More Law Center, April 18, 2017:

ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center (“TMLC”) has learned that the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (“ISBR”), which was trying to obtain zoning changes to build a mosque in Bernards Township, NJ, has hidden from public view anti-Christian and anti-Semitic verses on its website, as well as its connection to the Islamic Society of North America (“ISNA”)— an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing trial in America.  ISNA is claimed by the Muslim Brotherhood as one of “our organizations and . . . our friends.”  According to internal documents seized by the FBI, the Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy is to engage in a “grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within . . .”—one of the stages of this civilization jihad is the building of mosques and Islamic centers.

Plaintiffs ISBR and Mohammad Ali Chaudry sued in March 2016, claiming that the denial of zoning changes to permit a mosque violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) of 2000 and reflected community “religious and cultural animus against Muslims.”  Within a week of the ISBR lawsuit, the Justice Department launched its own investigation and filed its own lawsuit.

While a visible link to the quotes below was once contained on the ISBR website, ISBR has now taken the extraordinary step of hiding the links from public view.  Accordingly, the quotes cannot be found through a simple internet search or a view of the public portion of ISBR’s website, they can only be found by access to the direct links here:

“Ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them.”

“Fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war).”

“And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; … .”

The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI entered the case solely to protect the constitutional rights of several Bernards Township citizens who exercised their fundamental right to publicly oppose proposed zoning changes.

These private citizens had no authority to deny the zoning application; nor did they have any official role in the Township.  Nevertheless, they were served with burdensome and harassing subpoenas which demanded: all their email addresses and social media accounts; all personal documents including emails, voicemails, text messages, and social media posts concerning Muslims, Islam, mosques, the Quran, Muslim worship or prayer services, wudu, imams, burkas, hijabs, Sharia, jihad, or anything else associated with or related to Muslims or Islam; any object inscribed with or containing the words “Preserve Liberty Corner,” or anti-mosque signs, flyers, banners, email messages, or pamphlets, distributed or otherwise existing at any time within the Township.  In addition, Department of Justice (“DOJ”) lawyers began a new front of intimidation by directly contacting these private citizens, asking them to come in for interviews concerning the mosque.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, stated: “Under Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the Justice Department, using politically driven DOJ attorneys, weaponized itself against fundamental constitutional principles to intimidate American citizens with whom they disagreed.  Immediately after the San Bernardino terrorist attack and just months before DOJ inserted itself into this case, Ms. Lynch made the infamous statement chilling free speech: ‘…when we see the potential for someone lifting that mantle of anti-Muslim rhetoric…. when we see that we will take action.’  This is exactly what happened to the citizens of Bernards Township. DOJ attorneys initiated a deep state inquisition, seeking to bring citizens objecting to the mosque in for questioning.”

Click here to read previous TMLC press release on Subpoenas.

Also see:

Outrageous Unconstitutional Intimidation of Private Citizens Who Opposed Mosque Project; Thomas More Law Center Steps In

Thomas More Law Center, March 28, 2017:

ANN ARBOR, MI – If you speak out against building a mosque in your community, you may be slapped with a subpoena demanding all your personal documents, including emails, voicemails, text messages, and social media posts concerning Muslims, Islam, mosques, the Quran, Muslim worship or prayer services, wudu, imams, burkas, hijabs, Sharia, jihad, or anything else associated with or related to Muslims or Islam.

This was part of the harassment and intimidation experienced by scores of private citizens of the small New Jersey town, Bernards Township (also known as Basking Ridge), who spoke out at public hearings against a plan to build a disproportionately-sized mosque on a small piece of residential property.  The mosque project, sponsored by the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (“ISBR”) and its president, Mohammad Ali Chaudry, was denied by Township officials for not complying with local building ordinances.

On March 10, 2016, ISBR and Mohammad Ali Chaudry sued Bernards Township in federal court, claiming various violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.  Shortly after, ISBR had coercive subpoenas served on private citizens whose only involvement was voicing concerns at public planning board meetings about whether the proposed mosque complied with local building ordinances.

The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey recently granted the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, permission to represent, without charge, several of these citizens who desired to quash the coercive and abusive subpoenas.  Westfield, New Jersey attorney Michael P. Hrycak is assisting the Law Center.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commented: “ISBR is setting a dangerous unconstitutional precedent by abusing a court process to chill and trample on the First Amendment Rights of private citizens whose only involvement was to speak out against the mosque at public hearings. Because the U.S. Supreme Court has held that speech at a public place on a matter of public concern is entitled to special protection, we will ask the Federal District Court to quash the subpoenas served on our clients as a misuse and abuse of the Court’s process.”

Lori Caratzola, described in the ISBR Complaint as a fervent and frequent objector to the mosque, was a prime target for ISBR’s personal attacks.  She was personally mentioned over a dozen times in their Complaint.  Yet she has remained steadfast in her opposition.  Ms. Caratzola commented:

“Being served with a Federal Court Subpoena to turn over all my personal communications including voicemails, social media, emails, notes wherein I make any mention of anything having to do with Islam is an absolute violation of my First Amendment rights. I was a citizen exercising my right to attend public planning board meetings about a land use application that affected my community.”

She continued:

“Dr. Chaudry’s clear intent was to embarrass, strike fear, silence and cause financial harm to any citizen who dared oppose his nonconforming project.  And if these subpoenas are allowed to stand, it will set a chilling precedent for all citizens who wish to exercise their Constitutionally protected right to free speech and to petition their government.

“I was named numerous times in the Complaint, yet as a non-party, I had no standing to challenge the lies and half-truths told about me.  After the Complaint was filed, mainstream media picked up and repeated these lies and half-truths.”

Caratzola concluded:

“I have lost days, probably weeks, devoting time to trying to find counsel – only to find most attorneys are afraid of challenging an Islamic group in today’s political climate.”

Attorney Karen Lugo, a specialist on constitutional law and zoning issues, echoed Lori Caratzola’s concerns:

“ISBR’s subpoena of private citizens’ communications with local government, as well as all personal email and social media statements related to ‘anything associated with or related to Muslims or Islam’ is in direct violation of speech protections enshrined in the Constitution and in Supreme Court rulings. ISBR’s blatant efforts to chill the free exercise of speech while intimidating local citizens with these subpoenas must not only be denied, but must be rebuked, by the courts.”

Cody Smith, another subpoenaed resident who opposed the Mosque, stated:

“The planning board did exactly what it should have done—set emotions aside and judge ISBR’s application solely on its merits and whether it complied with our local regulations. It’s unfortunate that Dr. Chaudry, the Township’s former mayor, has resorted to an all-out smear campaign and retaliation against residents who exercised their fundamental Constitutional rights of Free Speech in a public forum.”

Soon after ISBR’s lawsuit, DOJ investigators opened another coercive front by attempting to   interview the private citizens who opposed the mosque.  Eight months later, the DOJ filed its own lawsuit against the Township.

Astonishingly, the DOJ was dismissive of an apparent conflict of interest between Mohammad Ali Chaudry and the DOJ’s chief investigator, Caroline Sadlowski, both of whom were serving together on the Center for Religious and Cultural Conflicts board at Drew University.

See Bernards Township Press Release here