Everything Zen in Walnut


Barbara hit it on the head with this one. The wonderful people of Walnut, CA show the same concern over the use of city ordinance to keep communities nice and Christian as do the delightful (and definately not racist or bigoted) people of Utica and NYC.  People will come out of the woodwork to show concern over a parking space or the height of a statue when the real issue is over whether you want heathen (and possibly non-white) neighbors…

The Justice Department is suing the city of Walnut, California, for denying the Chung Tai Zen Center a permit to build a temple on its own property. According to the Justice Department, the Walnut Planning Commission originally was concerned that the building would be too big and possibly create traffic problems.

However,  at an initial meeting between the zennies and the Planning Commission, the “Commission’s Vice-Chair, James Hall, expressed  concern that the Zen Center would seek to ‘recruit’ and influence students who attended a nearby middle school,” the court document says.

Even as the Zen Center made changes for a smaller building and made accommodations, the Walnut Planning Commission still turned down the application on the grounds that it would be a “tourist attraction” and (these are my words) probably bring in more of those non-Christians.  Now the last thing a zen center should be is a tourist attraction but is that really a concern when building a church or center of worship?  And even though the center was actually smaller than the other areas of worship some Commissioners were concerned over the appearance of the temple.  Too asian perhaps?  Or just not enough crosses?  Too many Buddhas? Bows? What?

But I am sure this is just an issue with building ordinances…except for…

Later that year, the same Planning Commission approved a building permit for a Catholic church that will be three times larger and 20 feet higher than the Zen Center would have been. The Planning Commission also has approved non-religious building projects much more traffic-intensive than the Zen Center. So, yes, I’d say this is a case of religious discrimination.

I had this discussion earlier about the Utica temple that required the state supreme court to rule in favor of the Vietnamese Buddhists to have their statue…and while that lovely community obviously respect their Buddhist neighbors, a statue that isn’t the Virgin Mary or Christ would probably require a higher court to rule on.  I mean seriously people, this is America.

But that was just some concerned citizens over building ordinances, wasn’t it?  Nothing to do with anything else right?

From the LA Times

Federal prosecutors sued Walnut for religious discrimination Monday, saying the city unfairly denied a Buddhist house of worship a land-use permit.

The city rejected the Chung Tai Zen Center a conditional-use permit to build and operate a temple on property it owned in 2008. According to federal prosecutors, that denial was the first of its kind in almost three decades.

The complaint points to a permit granted for a Catholic church later that year that was larger than the proposed Zen center.

“Religious freedom is among our most cherished rights, and our nation’s laws prohibit cities and towns from discriminating based on religion,” Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division, said in a release. “No faith should be singled out for inferior treatment when it seeks to build a house of worship in compliance with local zoning laws.”

Walnut is located in the southeastern part of Los Angeles County, and has a population of about 32,000, including a high percentage of Asian Americans.

The denial violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, according to the complaint.