Awhile back I wrote about local resistance to the building of Buddhist temples. Well, there are a couple of new cases.
One is in Olathe, Kansas, population 92,962, located 20 miles southwest of downtown Kansas City. The Lao Buddhist Association, which has been part of the community of Olathe for 15 years, has outgrown its small temple and wants to build a new one. However, the county Board of Commissioners has denied a building permit to the group, saying the property they chose is zoned only for residencies.
Lama Changchup Kunchok Dorje -- a.k.a. Chuck Stanford -- of the Rime Buddhist Center in Kansas City says the refusal was pure discrimination. There are Christian churces in residential areas, he said. Whether there are other churches in the exact same neighborhood as the proposed temple, I do not know.
More than that, comments made at the public meeting about the building permit revealed some, um, confusion about the Buddhist group. One neighbor, for example, objected to all those Buddhist animal sacrifices. Yes, messy stuff. At least, there were no objections to the naked fire pujas (just kidding).
There was concern expressed about loud gongs, spirit worship, and the holding of excessive numbers of festivals. And one individual objected to calling the temple a "church," saying it was really only a "social club" because it wasn't Christian.
There are legitimate reasons to deny building permits, and these reasons involve such issues as traffic, water, and septic systems. However, the county Department of Planning, Development and Codes recommended approving the project, which suggests those sorts of issues had been addressed.
Further, the Interfaith Council of Greater Kansas City issued a statement, saying,
"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 has submitted a second, scaled-back plan to the Board of Commissioners.
Elsewhere -- I take it the Vietnamese Buddhist Meditation Congregation of Bonsall, California, has been trying since 2004 to get a permit to build a monastery that would house about 30 monks. Bonsall is a small community in San Diego County. The site of the proposed facility is zoned for residences and agriculture.
It's not clear from news stories why the project has been held up for so long. During a recent public comment period, the county Department of Planning and Land Use received many more letters in favor of the project than against it.
Finally, an upate to the denial of a permit to build a Zen Center in Walnut, California, that I wrote about last year. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a discrimination suit against Walnut, alleging that Walnut violated the civil rights of the local Zen group. In January, a federal district judge denied Walnut's motion to dismiss the suit.
However, the Walnut zennies, who have relocated to Pamona, have filed their own suit against Walnut, seeking to recover damages. They allege, for example, that the city's demand for multiple traffic studies placed an unreasonable financial burden on the Zen community.