Baptists Treated 'Better Than Muslims' In Planning Row

Computer rendered plans for a 4,250-square-foot mosque in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.Facebook/Islamic Society of Basking Ridge

Baptists were treated better than Muslims by planning authorities in a controversial New Jersey case that saw Southern Baptists lining up in support of a mosque, a judge has ruled. 

The Southern Baptist Convention's Baptist Press news service reports findings by US district judge Michael Shipp, who ruled that the planning board of Bernards Township violated federal law.

The board required the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge (ISBR) to include more than twice as much parking space in its plan for a new mosque as it had required for churches and synagogues.

The board had said mosques might need more parking space because peak worship time was Friday afternoons and people would arrive from work in separate cars rather than sharing rides.

Shipp's opinion states Basking Ridge's Millington Baptist Church was "treated... differently and better" than the Islamic society as it had been allowed to build with proportionately far fewer parking spaces than ISBR.

Its proposals had also been agreed after only four hearings, while ISBR's had taken 39 – "more than the Planning Board held for any previous applicant", as Shipp noted.

The SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and its head Russell Moore supported the ISBR on religious liberty grounds and were fiercely criticised from within the denomination for doing so, with prominent figures calling for Moore to step down.

SBC executive committee president Frank Page was forced to deny rumours that SBC funds from its Cooperative Programme had been used to build the mosque.

He told Baptist Press: "We have never been asked for CP gifts to be used for the construction of any non-Christian house of worship; nor would we agree to such a request. In an age of satirical websites and fake news stories, Southern Baptists can know with confidence that claims to the contrary are spurious reports."