OLATHE, KANSAS — A Johnson County Buddhist church has outgrown its building, and they have a new place to worship picked out. But so far they have been denied the right to use it, and a metro Buddhist leader says that zoning isn’t the reason why they can’t move in.
The Lao-Buddhist Association is trying to move its Olathe temple to a location along 119th Street in Olathe. But the Johnson County Board of Commissioners has so far denied the group a conditional use permit. Neighbors say that the area the Buddhists have chosen is zoned residential, but Lama Chuck Stanford of the Rime Buddhist Center says that discrimination is the real reason behind the opposition.
“This is clearly just ugliness of ethnic and religious prejudice,” said Stanford.
Neighbors, who refused to go on camera, told FOX 4 that being opposed to the Buddhist temple doesn’t make him a bigot, while another neighbor told FOX 4 that other commercial proposals in the neighborhood have been declined as well.
Standord notes that Christian churches are common in residential areas, and that comments made by residents during a January zoning board meeting indicate fear and ignorance. At the meeting, people raised concerns about traffic, water pollution and “animal sacrifices,” along with noise from gongs, which Stanford says are no louder than church bells.
“I’m so shocked that this year, in 2011, in Johnson County, their people would be a little more liberal, and better educated, than that,” said Stanford.
The Johnson County Department of Planning, Development and Codes has recommended approval of the Buddhist’s permit. But the Northwest Consolidated Zoning Board voted unanimously to recommend denial of the request.
The Lao-Buddhist Association has submitted a second, scaled-back plan to the board, but neighbors say that if it is passed it will open the door for other commercial properties in the area. The Board of Commissioners will take up the issue next Thursday night.
Welcome to America! Where you are free to practice any religion as long as it is Christian. And if it isn’t, just don’t have it in my backyard. If you persist we will be sure to hide behind zoning and obscure regulations (not enough parking, statue too large, animal sacrifices, don’t want tourists visiting) that have been waived for churches. Maybe they should hang out with the the Buddhist community of Utica, NY or Walnut, Ca. I don’t mind as people need to have a place to worship if they so wish but I am confused when that right is dictated by which religion or ethnic/racial group applies. In all three instances the temple abided by the concern of the zoning board, reapplied a scaled-back version and each time turned down.
And exactly how does a temple fall into the definition of a “commercial” property? Are churches considered “commerical” in nature and are they also summarily dismissed?
A few other examples of zoning law discrimination:
- Berkeley Thai Buddhist temple ~ Asian Pacific Americans for Progress
- Vietnamese Buddhist Temple (Lansing, MI) ~ The State News
- Bat Nha Meditation Institute (Los Angeles, CA) ~ LA Times
- Yuan Yung Retreat Center (Rowland Hieghts, CA) ~ Buddhist Channel
- Dau Trang Minh Dang Quang Temple (Utica, NY) ~ WickedLocal
- Cambodian Buddhist Society of Connecticut (Newtown, Conn.) ~ The Newtown Bee
- Aram Buddhist Temple (Olive Township, MI) ~ The Holland Sentinel
- Chung Tai Zen Center (Walnut, CA) ~ God Discussion
- Dai Dang Monastery (Camino del Rey, CA) ~ North County Times
- Tam-Bao Buddhist Temple (Tusle, OK) ~ Tulsa World
- Virginia Beach Temple (Virginia Beach, VA) ~ Hampton Roads
So, one things stands out. All of these issues came up with primarily Asian American Buddhist Centers. I could not find one single convert, predominately non-Asian temple or Zen Center that hit the same road-blocks. granted my search is not by any means definitive but it does show a trend ~ That zoning laws are used as a racist vehicle against Asian American Buddhist communities.
“Our community is threatened when any faith is misrepresented….We also understand that two plans for the use of the property have been approved by the professional staff of the county, that all similar plans and purchases in similar neighborhoods have always been approved for over a dozen Christian institutions, but that unfavorable sentiments expressed by some of the neighbors indicate that they may not be accurately informed about the Buddhist faith, appear to ignore our American tradition of religious liberty and may damage the interfaith civility the council seeks to assure for all who live in the metro area.”
The Lao Buddhist Association of Olathe will be asking the Johnson County Commission Thursday night to allow temple’s move from Olathe to Johnson County. Their will be a public hearing on the issue.
To sum up the situation: The Lao Buddhist Association of Olathe’s temple has been located within Olathe since 1997 but due to increased patronage, they are busting at the seams. The plan, as presented by the Buddhist Association, is to move to a 14-acre plot outside of Olathe, to a zone where churches need conditional-use permits.
The Northwest Consolidated Zoning Board voted unanimously to denial the permit on Jan. 24. At the meeting tonight, county commissioners will vote to allow or deny the permit. If allowed it will return it to the zoning board for further consideration. Historically, as in the examples listed above, most successful appeals from Buddhist temples or associations to meet their needs require action from the state level before their concerns are heard and given equal consideration. View it online