Citizens opposing a New Jersey mosque’s construction project are fighting back after their personal communications regarding Islam were subpoenaed by Muslim leaders.

The Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has announced it will represent people whose private and personal documents — including emails, voicemails, text messages and social media posts — were subpoenaed in a case brought by Mohammed Ali Chaudry and the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge against Bernards Township.

The longstanding case has multiple components, including the apparent intervention of the Obama administration against the local government, even while the public hearings over the project were ongoing.

But the newest move means that individuals such as Lori Caratzola will be represented in the larger dispute between the Islamic activists and the city. It’s a dispute they were drawn into when the mosque named them in a legal filing.

Caratzola was named by the ISBR in its lawsuit as a fervent opponent of the mosque. She consequently faced demands from the Muslims for all of her personal communications that mention Muslims, Islam, mosques, the Quran, imams, burkas, hijabs, Shariah, jihad and other features of Islam.

“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 wsa to speak out against the mosque at public hearings,” said Richard Thompson, chief counsel for the TMLC.

“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.”

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He explained the U.S. District Court for New Jersey now has granted his law firm permission to represent, without charge, some of the citizens. Attorney Michael P. Hrycak of Westfield, New Jersey, is assisting the center.

In a statement released through TMLC, Caratzola said: “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 said 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,” said Caratzola.

“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.”

Attorney Karen Lugo, a specialist on constitutional law and zoning issues, expressed similar 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 resident who objected to the mosque and was targeted by Islamic leaders, added: “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.”

NBC reported just weeks ago that a federal judge ruled Bernards Township “discriminated” against the mosque project by requiring it to provide more parking spots than it required of churches.

But city officials said they were considering how to respond to the ruling in that court or an appellate court.

“Bernards Township Mayor Carol Bianchi refused to wave the white flag Monday. She said the township is weighing its next legal move and referred a reporter to her earlier statement criticizing U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Shipp’s ruling,” NBC reported.

The city had rejected allegations by the mosque that it applied different standards for parking spot requirements in the case, explaining the mosque has different uses and needs than other houses of worship.

For example, the city explained mosque participants likely would be arriving one per car, straight from work, for services such as those on Friday afternoons.

The mosque has proposed 50 parking spaces, and the city said 107 were needed.

The fight has gone on so long that even the DOJ, under an agenda imposed by Obama, sued Bernards Township, prompting the city to issue a public rebuke over an obvious conflict of interest in which the federal agency was involved.

In a statement from the city, which defended its decision “based on legitimate land use and safety considerations,” officials said they had discovered “a relationship between plaintiff Mohammad Ali Chaudry and one of the lead DOJ investigators, Caroline Sadlowsky, chief of the civil division in the United States Attorneys Office for the District of New Jersey.”

“The plaintiff and Ms. Sadlowski have been serving together on a board at Drew University,” the city revealed.

The DOJ “dismissed” the city’s concerns and then refused to provide any information on the city’s request for information about the relationship between the two board members.

“In addition, the DOJ communicated with plaintiffs during and after the Planning Board hearings. The DOJ has admitted in writing that they were in communication with ISBR attorney, Robert Raymar, during the land use application well before any decision was reached as to the application,” the city said.

“These communications, unknown by the township at the time, suggest inappropriate collusion with plaintiffs rather than an unbiased review.”

The evidence, the city said, suggests the DOJ work “was not conducted in an objective manner designed to seek the truth, but rather only to support and bolster the ongoing ISBR civil lawsuit.”

Even the city cited the “punitive subpoenas” issued by the mosque against citizens and the “invasive probes” that “went so far as to require documents sufficient to show endorsements of, donations to, or associations with political campaigns.”

While Obama is now gone from office, bureaucrats installed under his administration remain in many parts of the federal government.

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