A U.S. Justice Department lawsuit against Bensalem Township for refusing to allow a local Muslim group to build a mosque will go forward, a judge ruled this week.

The request by Bucks County's largest municipality to have the suit dismissed was denied Monday by District Judge Michael M. Baylson.

Bensalem Masjid sought a permit for a mosque in Bensalem in 2014, which the township denied. Masjid members must drive to mosques in Yardley or Philadelphia to worship. They hold weekly prayer services in a rented fire hall in Bensalem, a space that does not meet their religious needs, according to the suit.

In its suit, filed in July, Justice Department officials contended that Bensalem's denial of the permit constituted religious discrimination.

The township has said that it has no bias against any religious groups and that Bensalem Masjid did not make a proper case to the zoning board when it proposed the mosque.

The denial "doesn't mean that when all is said and done ... that they will, in fact prevail," said Joseph Pizzo, the township's solicitor. "The township is confident that if this case reaches a jury that the township will prevail and will be vindicated."

In a 12-page memorandum, the judge said that the Justice Department's allegations were sufficient to make the legal claims and that its "arguments are factual in nature and are unavailing."

610-313-8205

@McDanielJustine