Justice Department Settles Discrimination Suit Involving Buddhist Center
By Channing Turner | August 4, 2022 12:12 pm

The Justice Department announced Wednesday that it has settled a suit against the city of Walnut, Calif., to resolve allegations that the city prevented a Buddhist group from building a house of worship on land the group owned, the San Gabriel Valley Tribute reported.

The department sued the city last Sept. when the city denied the Chung Tai Zen Center’s zoning permit in 2008, and the Zen Center had to move its house of worship to another facility in Pomona, Calif. The center would have been the only non-Christian religious center in Walnut.

The Zen Center had proposed building their religious center back in 2001, and around 2003, members of the city’s planning commission expressed concern that the center would “recruit” local children, according the Tribune.

The government’s complaint argued that, until the Zen Center, the city had not rejected any application for a conditional use permit to build a house of worship or expand or operate a house of worship since at least 1980. It alleged that the rejection provided evidence that the city treated the Zen Center differently from other religious facilities.

“Our nation’s laws prohibit cities and towns from discriminating based on religion when they make zoning decisions related to houses of worship,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said in a statement. “We are pleased that we have reached an agreement with the city of Walnut that prohibits inferior treatment of any religious organization that seeks to build a house of worship in compliance with local zoning laws.”

As part of the settlement, the city agreed not to impose different zoning or business requirements for other houses of worship, and to send its leaders, managers, and certain other city employees to training sessions on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, an anti-discrimination law.

“We just want to ensure that we’re doing the right thing,” Walnut Deputy City Manager Chuck Robinson told the Tribune. “In going through the mediation process and looking at these items that we’ve agreed to, we felt that was a fair and equitable end to this item and allows both the DOJ and the city to move forward.”

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