Religious Diversity News

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Zoning Board Approves Hindu Temple in Parsippany

Source: Daily Record

On June 15, 2006 Daily Record reported, “The BAPS [Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha] Northeast congregation Wednesday night won 5-2 zoning board approval to create a Hindu worship center and apartment for its priest in part of a warehouse on Entin Road.

Board chairman Robert Iracane and Brad E. Muniz voted against the plan.

The vote came after more than three hours of sworn testimony from many opponents and supporters who spoke under three-minute limits set by Iracane.

The board meet in executive session afterward and then voted to grant the group a variance to build a temple in a special economic development district, where houses of worship are not among the allowed uses.

At the special meeting, which drew about 100 people, approximately 15 residents had spoken against the plan in the first hours of the session. They stressed that their objections had nothing to do with the Hindu religion, but they said approving the temple would set a bad precedent in Parsippany.

‘This would set the precedent for spot zoning in our neighborhood,’ said Mary Purzycki, who has lived in the same home for 37 years. ‘We’re not newcomers to this situation.’

Another resident, Frank Dedrick, came to the meeting with his wife, Terry. The couple said they have spent 51 years in the neighborhood and originally moved there because it was a quiet area.

‘We were promised by Henry Luther that the zoning would never change,’ Terry Dedrick said, referring to the former mayor of the town.

‘Believe me, this has nothing to do with religion,’ Frank Dedrick said. ‘We know that there are religious holidays that bring hundreds of people to the temple,’ he said, adding that parking and traffic would become a problem.

‘I am here because I don’t want a temple or a 24-hour spa in my backyard,’ said Shannon Cullinan, adding that the issue in this situation was about ‘protecting the quality of life of Parsippany citizens.'”

Zoning Change Rejected for Muslim Cemetery in TX

Source: The Fayette County Review

On November 12, 2004 The Fayette County Review reported, “the Fayette County Development Committee has recommended the County Commission not approve a re-zoning request by the North American Islamic Trust to allow a cemetery to be established in a residential district on Orr Road. The vote was held Monday night in front of a packed courtroom consisting mostly of Hickory Withe area residents against the re-zoning… The application for the re-zoning was submitted by L & S Partnership who reported they were in negotiations to sell the property to the North Islamic Trust.”

Zoning Controversy Over Buddhist Temple in San Francisco

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

On September 9, 2004 The San Francisco Chronicle reported, “religion is at the center of a classic San Francisco land-use fight, where a developer hires politically-connected permit consultant Walter Wong to gain approval for a much bigger building than would otherwise be allowed, while the foes tap Wong’s frequent nemeses, growth-control lawyers Sue Hestor and Stephen Williams. Wong’s client is a small Buddhist temple on Van Ness Avenue that wants to expand. The opponents include St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, whose leaders say the expanded temple will cast their stained glass windows in shadow… Church leaders and nearby condominium owners say the American Buddhist Cultural Temple, whose expansion proposal comes before the San Francisco Planning Commission today has failed to work with its neighbors to minimize negative impacts or given them enough information and time to respond to the development plans.”

Zoning Disputes Between Religious Groups and Local Governments Require Constitutional Standards

Source: The Seattle Times

On May 18, 2001, The Seattle Times published an opinion piece on the clash between the rights of religious groups to build houses of worship and the efforts of local governments to limit growth. “The Free Exercise Clause protects religious practice from governmental
interference but is limited by laws that are passed for compelling government
reasons…Federal courts have made notable shifts in the application of the
compelling-interest test, broadly applying this strict standard in some cases
but narrowing the scope in others…Without constitutional standards or framework that provides guidance for
policymakers and lower courts, the search for solid constitutional footing
appears to be an effort in futility.”

Zoning for Caledonia Buddhist Colony Backed by County Panel

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

On August 15, 2005 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, “Members of the Racine County Economic & Land Use Planning Committee approved a petition on Monday that would keep the plan to build a Buddhist temple in Caledonia alive… The petitions have stirred a controversy among residents who believe the town should be reserved for residential use and say a Buddhist temple would attract too much traffic… Roughly 75 residents from Caledonia filed into the Ives Grove Complex Auditorium to voice their concerns. Planners had eyed that area for a conservation subdivision of single-family homes, which residents say would have contributed to the town’s tax base… Supporters of the Buddhist temple contend residents are uncomfortable with the proposed project because of personal prejudices.

Buddhists are interested in constructing a temple, meditation building, fellowship hall, Buddha building and facility for nuns on 13 acres… About a dozen Buddhists attended the meeting to introduce themselves to their possible neighbors and explain their plan to the community. Throughout the evening, they passed out information on Lao culture and explained that they need more room.”

Zoning for Religious Structures to Improve

Source: Los Angeles Times

On August 5, 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported that a bill passed both houses of Congress unanimously last week that “would make it more difficult for cities to use zoning laws to keep churches, temples and mosques out of their neighborhoods. President Clinton is expected to sign it into law.” Further, “another portion of the bill seeks to ensure that people in institutions, such as mental hospitals and prisons, can freely practice their faith as long as it does not undermine security, discipline or order in their institutions.” The chief House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Charles T. Canady (R-Fla.), said “some city officials would deliberately exclude all new churches from an entire city. Other cities have refused to permit churches to use existing buildings that nonreligious groups previously used and still others intentionally change zoning rules to exclude churches.” However, “under the new bill, local zoning and land use regulations would not be allowed to ‘place a substantial burden on the exercise of religion’ unless municipal officials could demonstrate a ‘compelling government reason’ to justify their actions.” Those who support the bill say that “zoning officials often interfere with religious practice in ways that are discriminatory.”

Zoning Laws Could Force Buddhists to Retreat from Ore. Plans

Source: The Examiner

CROW, Ore. (Map, News) – A Buddhist group plans to build a $5 million retreat center on forest land dotted with pastures, flower meadows, creeks, springs and lakes.

But it doesn’t sound so idyllic to Lane County officials, who say the 160-acre parcel in a valley southwest of Eugene is zoned for growing trees.

County planner Matt Laird said changing the zoning to accommodate the project “would be a very difficult case to make,” given the area surrounding the parcel is also zoned for forestry.

The Dzogchen Shri Singa Foundation, based in Nevada, has yet to submit a development plan, Laird said. A press release from the foundation said the group looks “forward to being responsible stewards of this inspiring land,” but does not address the zoning issue.

The foundation said it hopes to use the retreat center to teach Buddhist methods that “increase personal happiness, foster social harmony and plant the seeds for world peace.”

Zoning Laws to Improve for Religious Groups

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

On August 11, 2000, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that a “coalition of more than 80 religious and legal advocacy groups, from liberal to conservative, support legislation that would make it harder to use zoning rules to prevent building houses of worship…Zoning regulations cannot ‘place a substantial burden on exercise of religion’ unless local officials show a compelling governmental objective, according to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which was passed by both houses of Congress on July 27. It is expected to be signed into law by President Clinton…The bill also seeks to ensure that people in institutions like mental hospitals and prisons can practice their faith freely…Supporters include the American Jewish Congress, the Christian Legal Society, the Baptist Joint Committee, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Family Research Council and the American Civil Liberties Union.”

Zoning Panel’s Rejection of Proposed Mosque Raises Questions

Author: Jim DeBrosse

Source: Dayton Daily News

SUGARCREEK TWP., Greene County — When the First Baptist Church here advertised a speaker last fall who would tell “the truth about Islam,” Dina Ezzeddine of Kettering assumed it would be an interfaith gathering aimed at dispelling negative publicity about her religion.

Instead, former Muslim and Christian convert Shahram Parvani told a gathering of 500 people that “Islam is not a religion of peace,” that Muslims “want to control, they want to dominate” and that they spread their religion “by the power of the sword.”