DOJ Makes Walnut Safe for Religion (Then We Take Berlin)

Yesterday the Department of Justice announced a settlement in a lawsuit over alleged religious discrimination by the city of Walnut, California. You may have heard about it: The Chung Tai Zen Center of Walnut was denied a permit to build a “Buddhist house of worship” on its own property. The Zen Center ended up moving to Pomona, some 8 miles away.

According to the DOJ press release,

The case arose from the city’s handling and ultimate denial of the Zen Center’s application for a zoning permit to operate a Buddhist house of worship. Under the Walnut code, houses of worship may operate in the area in which the Zen Center wanted to build its facility if granted a conditional use permit. The government’s complaint alleged that, until it denied the Zen Center’s application in January 2008, the city had not rejected any application for a conditional use permit to build, expand or operate a house of worship since at least 1980. The complaint further alleged that the city treated the Zen Center differently than similarly situated religious and non-religious facilities. For example, the complaint alleges that in August 2008, the city approved a conditional use permit for a Catholic church that, when completed, will be larger than the Zen Center’s proposed facility. The complaint also alleges that between 1998 and 2003, the city built a civic center complex two blocks from Zen Center’s former location in Walnut.”

The settlement still has to be approved by a Federal judge. Under the settlement’s terms the City of Walnut is prohibited from engaging in “the inferior treatment of any religious organization that seeks to build a house of worship in compliance with local zoning laws.” City leaders, managers and certain employees must also attend training classes on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), enacted by the United States Congress in 2000.

Chung Tai Monastery Taiwan

I don’t know anything about the Chung Tai Zen sect, other than it’s a Taiwan-based monastic order that supposedly follows traditional Chinese Ch’an. I think I may have been to the center in Walnut once, but it was long ago. I used to visit quite a few Chinese temples in the San Gabriel Valley, but they are a bit of a blur now. Except for Hsi Lai in Hacienda Heights, which happens to be the largest Buddhist temple outside of Asia, so it’s kind of hard to forget.

George H.W. Bush, said something once while running for President in 1987 that I think still reflects the thinking of many Americans:  “No, I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

For quite a few of our fellow Americans you could replace Atheists in that sentence with Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Mormons, etc. One nation under God, as they, the kind of people who think like this, see him.

Apparently that depraved gunman in the recent massacre in Norway was inspired by one of these types, a far-right anti-Islam activist named Robert Spencer. I don’t know much about Spencer either, except that he seems to be somewhat in the Glenn Beck mode and he collaborates with a woman named Pamela Geller, who has a blog called “Atlas Shrugs” and there is, obviously, some sort of connection to the philosophy of Ayn Rand. According to Salon, “They are now actually fundraising on the fact that they helped inspire a massacre. Or more accurately, they’re begging for money to protect them from the imaginary witch hunt that they claim the liberals will mount.” ThinkProgress reports, “if you donate more than $500 to Atlas Shrugs, they will send you a signed copy of Geller’s book, ‘Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance’.”

If you donate more than $500 to this blog, I will send you a signed copy of relationship guru Paula Yorlegagan’s new book, “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?”

The world is changing every moment, and is therefore unreal, it has no permanent existence. But though it is constantly changing, it has a something about it which persists and it is therefore to that extent real. I have therefore no objection to calling it real and unreal . . . It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. And this knowledge saves me from attributing motives to my opponents or critics. The seven blind men who gave seven different descriptions of the elephant were all right from their respective points of view, and wrong from the point of view of one another, and right and wrong from the point of view of the man who knew the elephant. I very much like this doctrine of the manyness of reality. It is this doctrine that has taught me to judge a Musulman (sic) from his standpoint and a Christian from his. Formerly I used to resent the ignorance of my opponents. Today I can love them because I am gifted with the eye to see myself as others see me and vice versa. I want to take the whole world in the embrace of my love. [This] is the result of the twin doctrine of Satyagraha (“truth force”) and ahimsa (“non-violence”).”

Mohandas K. Gandhi, 1926

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