Not in This Neighborhood! Zoning Battles

Not in This NeighborhoodNeighbors unfamiliar with temples, gurdwaras, and mosques sometimes turn to zoning laws in order to sanction religious discrimination. Common sources of conflict include concerns about traffic and parking on residential streets and the appearance of proposed structures. Successful efforts at overcoming zoning conflicts have often involved dialogue between religious communities and the communities into which structures may be built.

One of the first encounters a new immigrant religious community has with its neighbors might not be over a cup of tea, but in City Hall in a zoning board hearing. Zoning and traffic are real concerns, to be sure, but they also are ways to articulate, in concrete terms, a community’s amorphous fears. Every religious tradition in America has faced the “zoning and traffic” problem in one place or another. But new and struggling religious communities often feel the challenge by their new neighbors more acutely.

All over America, the Vietnamese Buddhist tradition initially has taken root in new soil through a multitude of small home temples, which are in homes in ordinary neighborhoods. Suddenly in the suburbs of Denver or Houston, there is a temple next door where a Buddhist monk and his assistants live. The living room is transformed into a Buddha hall, with a high altar for the Buddha and a smaller memorial altar for the deceased. The back patio is filled with picnic tables and blackboards set up for weekend education classes. There may be an image of the bodhisattva Guanyin in the backyard.

One such temple is Chua Quan Am in Garden Grove, California. One of dozens of small home temples in the Orange County area, Chua Quan Am underwent a multi-year controversy with the zoning board that ended in 2008. The encounter, like many others like it, raised new questions about what religious liberty means if the standard pattern of “church” and “synagogue” no longer applies—when the monk’s home is the church, so to speak.

It was a very different case when a Hindu community in northern New Jersey purchased a former YMCA in Sayreville to transform into a temple. The issues would seem to be clearer: the building had already been zoned for public use and the parking lot was already there. The building was on a busy road with schools, a mall, and a public library, so the volume of traffic and noise was already high. Even so, the Hindu community encountered difficulty. “Get out Hindoos” and “KKK” were written on the walls of the empty, contested building. Not until the Hindus took the matter to the courts were they able to gain clearance to create their temple community.

Muslim communities have also struggled with issues around zoning and exclusion. Thinly disguised bigotry was the response in 1990 when a mosque was first planned in Edmond, a suburb of Oklahoma City and home of the University of Oklahoma. A Pluralism Project researcher wrote, “At the first public hearing there was a move to deny a building permit to the mosque, because the wife of [a] minister attended the meeting and vehemently opposed it. She said, ‘the Constitution says “one nation under God,” and that’s a Christian God. These people have absolutely no right to be here.’” Though the initial public hearing session did not grant a building permit, word got out about the tenor of the meeting. Various community leaders heard about it and attended the second public hearing. Much more sympathetic to the Muslims' proposal, they visited the existing mosque and began a deep relationship with the community. Eventually, the mosque succeeded in receiving the permit. Twenty-two years later, representatives of the Islamic Society of Edmond were back in front of city planning commissioners, seeking to expand the mosque. Although the committee received an anonymous letter opposing the mosque, it was only a few changes in project scope that delayed a decision.

In Milton, Massachusetts, plans to build a mosque did not go so well. In 1990, the Islamic Society of New England was bursting at the seams in its mosque in the Boston suburb of Quincy. When they began looking for new property, the Muslims found a large Catholic center in Milton up for sale. Again, issues of zoning and traffic were raised in the community. As the story progressed, the real issue became clear: many wondered was whether a large Islamic center would be “in keeping” with the Milton community. Both sides hired lawyers, and the dialogue was often difficult and charged. The chairman of Milton’s planning board described the mosque plans as “the largest institutional development in recent times in Milton.” The secretary of the Islamic Center of New England Board of Directors countered, “They’ve taken their zoning by-law requirements and expanded them infinitely more than for anybody else.” The Islamic community persisted in its efforts to buy the property, but just before its loan was approved, a group of Milton citizens bought the Catholic center out from under them. Instead, the Islamic Society of New England opened its new extension in Sharon, Massachusetts in 1993 and the Muslim community was welcomed publicly by many of Sharon’s religious and civic leaders.

Vocal expression of concern about mosques in American cities have only grown more troubling in the years since 9/11. In October 2010 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s efforts to build a new mosque were thwarted by accusations of Muslim links with terror. “We’re Christians and this religion represents people that are against Christians,” said one opponent. “That’s something we need to look at, you know, because you’re going to have a lot of trouble down the line.” When asked what “trouble” he foresaw, concerns were expressed about terrorism and Sharia law. Another opponent argued that her opposition to the Murfreesboro mosque stemmed from concerns about violent extremism. After two years of complaints and zoning hearings, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro finally opened the doors of their new mosque in August 2012. After several shootings and arson attacks on Muslim and Sikh temples in the weeks prior to opening day, the community decided to hire security guards. Although no violence took place during the opening festivities, anti-mosque protesters were present outside much of the day.

In St. Anthony, Minnesota, a 2012 request from a local mosque to transform a former office building into a religious and cultural center was summarily rejected after disparaging remarks about Islam were made in the public meeting. In response, the United States Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis launched a formal investigation into the city’s possible violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), a 2000 law that requires that “No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that person, assembly, or institution— (A) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (B) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” In 2014, the U.S. Attorney announced a settlement: the Abu Huraira Islamic Center would open in the proposed location. After two years of conflict, a local imam offered a literal olive branch to St. Anthony’s mayor, acknowledging the end of the legal dispute and the beginning of a new relationship between the local Muslim community and the rest of the city. Cases like the one in Murfreesboro and St. Anthony showcase the difficulties faced particularly by American mosque communities in the aftermath of 9/11.

Neighborhood efforts can often have a damaging effect on religious communities’ ability to build. When the Sikhs in the San Fernando Valley proposed to convert a single-family residence on Plummer Street in North Hills into a gurdwara, the city rejected their plan. Neighbors gathered signatures expressing their concern about its effect on a residential neighborhood. Many Sikhs, on the other hand, felt the issue was religious discrimination. A similar feeling pervaded the case in Bee Cave, a suburb of Austin, Texas when a local couple sought court action in 2008 to have the newly built temple demolished. Both parties settled out of court four years later with the gurdwara intact. In Palm Bay, Florida, the Church of Iron Oak, a local pagan community, was pursued by city officials when a passerby objected to the Imbolc (Candlemas, the Festival of Lights) celebration that took place without a permit at the home of Iron Oak’s religious leader. To the Iron Oak community, this singling out seemed to be a clear issue of discrimination.

What the religious center will look like is another common concern. The $1.2 million dollar Swaminarayan Hindu Temple in Norwalk, California was refused a conditional use permit in July 1992 when Norwalk residents began to complain about the scale and appearance of the building. For more than two years the temple and planning commission negotiated in court. The city demanded that the lavish, ornamental architecture of the Hindu temple exterior be toned down and have a more “Spanish” style in keeping with the culture of the neighborhood. The maximum capacity of the new temple was reduced by 50%. Similarly, in Bridgewater, New Jersey in 2009, the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple faced neighborhood backlash over the spectacular size of the temple’s expansion. Community residents expressed outrage that the new temple would have to be large enough to accommodate a 1,200 member congregation spanning several states: “If you go in the parking lot, it’s people from Connecticut, from Massachusetts, from all over the place,” one opponent argued. After reducing the size of the expansion significantly, Sri Venkateswara won the right to build.

These first encounters can either confirm old prejudices or provide new occasions for learning. “They thought we were Hare Krishnas,” said the abbot of a Thai Buddhist temple in Dade County in Florida. “The neighbors didn’t know anything about Buddhism. They thought we were a cult.” The Greater Miami Religious Leaders Coalition came to the help of the Buddhists after their first request to the zoning board was turned down. Wat Buddharangsi continues to be a part of the religious life of the Miami area, and its website even including a section for visitors that highlights etiquette and information on how to invite a monk to give a blessing.

In its early history, members of Boston’s Hindu community tried to explain what a Hindu temple would mean to the neighbors in suburban Ashland, where they wanted to build a Hindu temple. They encountered concerned citizens who had simply never seen such a structure before. T.R. Venkataraman, one of the temple’s board members, made a practical suggestion. He recalls, “Finally, I got them all in the car and drove down to New York so they could see the temple in Flushing. Then they knew what we were talking about.”

A similar story was told by a woman who lived across the small alleyway from a Hindu ashram in Pomona, California. When the ashram moved, the facility was purchased by another Hindu group who wanted to expand and build a new Vedic Temple on an adjacent tract of land. “At first, when we heard they wanted to build a temple on the back property we were very upset,” she said. “They hadn’t said anything about it. We were really opposed because any temple would have this little street as its access. It is not even a street, but a driveway between our properties. There would be too much traffic for such a little street. But our main problem was, ‘Why didn’t you talk to us about this?’”

“After the hearings at city hall, they talked to us a lot,” she went on. “They took us to the new Hindu temple in Malibu so that we would know something of what to expect. I was so moved. I had never seen anything like it. I tell you, my hair stood on end. The worship was so beautiful. I grew up Lutheran and I had never experienced anything like this. So now we are really excited about the temple. In fact, we had been planning to move—not because of the temple, but just because of our work. After that trip to the Malibu temple, we decided to stay here. We really want to stay. We want our kids to experience this. We want to be a part of this. After all, we are all here now.”

Additional Content

Lotus Flower Temple, Garden Grove, California

Pluralism Project Research Archive: “Religious Liberty in Law and Practice: Vietnamese Home Temples in California and the First Amendment”

Researcher: Chloe Breyer

1993

Back in 1991, the house on Bixby Street looked just like all the other ranch-style homes in this residential neighborhood of Garden Grove in Orange County, California. It was a one-story house, set slightly back from the street, with a two-car garage and a driveway. The cars sometimes spilled into the front yard. The only thing which set it apart was the Buddhist flag of yellow, red, blue, white and orange hanging in the living room window.

But at the door, the similarity of this house to its suburban neighbors ended. Just inside, there was always a pile of shoes, left by worshippers and guests as they entered the temple. To the right what was once a large living-room had become the Buddha hall, with an altar bearing the seated image of the Buddha along with offering of flowers, fruit, candles, and incense. Next to this was the family memorial altar, bearing photographs of the beloved dead. In this community, many are remembered. There are the family members lost in the long war in Vietnam, the friends and family who died as boat people fleeing from Vietnam, and the many who have died here in America since arriving as refugees since 1975.

In the adjoining kitchen, preparations were always being made for a community supper or for the newcomers to Garden Grove who needed hospitality and a place to stay. The tea pot was constantly emptied and filled again. On the back patio, there were eight picnic tables and a blackboard set up for weekly classes. A “meditation walk” wound through the bushes of the backyard.

This was Chua Lien Hoa in 1991. Chua means, simply, temple. Lien Hoa is the lotus flower, which blossoms beautifully on top of the pond, but which has its roots in the mud below the waters. This “Lotus Flower Temple” on Bixby Street was one of dozens of Vietnamese “home temples” in the Orange County area. Though considerably transformed today, it was and still is typical of the temples serving the religious needs of a Vietnamese population which numbers over 80,000 in the Westminister and Garden Grove areas of Orange County. Its story reveals both rifts and bridges in the Vietnamese religious encounter with America. In its early life in the 1980s, there were tensions with the neighbors over parking and noise, and tensions with city hall over zoning regulations. The issues were resolved only by appeal to the courts. Finally, from the mud of controversy, a new Lotus Flower Temple was born, right in the spacious backyard of this suburban home.

In Vietnam, as in many Buddhist countries, the monastery and the temple are a single unit. The temple is also the residence of a monk or monks. There might be a full monastery in cities, while in small towns, only one or two monks would live in the temple. The worship life of the community is not separate from the parsonage as is the common American pattern. As Nguyen Trong Nho, lawyer for the Buddhist temple, put it, “The nature of Buddhism is to be close to the people. This means that in Vietnam there was a small temple in every village. When you talk about Buddhism, it means a small temple in the middle of a community where a monk is available as a kind of spiritual counselor all the time, so that people can come over and talk to someone in the middle of the night if they have some kind of an emergency and a relative dies. The temple has to be small and close to the village—not big and glorious like many Christian churches here.”

When a monk named Venerable Thich Chon Thanh moved to Bixby Street, he was supported by a small group of Buddhists. During the week, a few people would come to his temple on a daily basis; on the weekends, the community was considerably larger. There were services in the temple room. The chanting of scriptures was amplified on the speaker system, classes were held on the patio, and community meals were held in the backyard. On the three big festival days of the year—the Vietnamese New Year, the Buddha’s Birthday, and the Vietnamese “Mother’s Day” called Vu Lan—there would suddenly be as many as two or three hundred people at the temple. Funerals and memorials for the dead would also be attended by large crowds.

Soon, complaints from the neighborhood began to pour into the police department and the code enforcement office. There was too much traffic for such a residential area, and since there was inadequate parking, cars lined the neighboring streets. There were loudspeakers in the backyard during the festivals and just too much noise for some neighbors. The temple did not have a conditional use permit.

Tensions rose in the neighborhood. On the Buddha’s birthday in June 1991, the code enforcement officers arrived during the day-long ceremonies, closed down the temple, and sent everyone home. During subsequent hearings for obtaining a conditional use permit, the court set a cap of twenty people permitted to be present in the temple at any one time. But Thich Chon Thanh said he could not tell people they may not enter the temple because there were already twenty people inside. When two temporarily homeless Vietnamese refugees came to the temple, he let them live for a time in the garage and for this was placed on probation. As he said, “As a Buddhist priest I see my duty to everyone to open my door to shelter them when they ask for a shelter, to give them a meal when I have things to eat and they do not.”

Some of the neighbors’ complaints were matters of nuisance, but there were legal questions as well. According to city code, a church or religious organization in Garden Grove must be located on a minimum of one acre of land and have a parking space for every five seats. In December of 1991, the code enforcement office filed a civil suit in Garden Grove on behalf of several of the neighbors asking for an injunction against activities at the temple. The hearings on the injunction began a process of dialogue between the temple, the city, the neighbors, and the code enforcement office.

The issues were many, not just for Lien Hoa Temple, but for as many as thirty small temples in Orange County. At the time the civil suit was filed, only one legal temple was under construction in Garden Grove, but more than a dozen home temples were in violation of the zoning requirements. None had a full acre of land. Neighborhood residents were concerned with noise, with parking, and with the incompatibility of the temple and the neighborhood. The Vietnamese Buddhists were concerned about the freedom to practice their religious ways in a new environment where the laws seemed to be constructed with Christian churches in mind.

The monk and his new community simply could not afford an acre of land in Garden Grove. A church like the United Church of Christ might be built on a whole acre of land a block down Bixby Street. But the Vietnamese temple was smaller, and its pattern of use was such that only a few times a year would the crowd be unsuitably large.

A code enforcement officer suggested that using an old warehouse or commercial property would avoid problems, but this would have altered the structure of Vietnamese Buddhist religious life. The question was, should Thich Chon Thanh and other monks live in a warehouse, rather than in a neighborhood? The very term “home temple” was coined by city officials, and clearly stemmed from the difficulty of deciding whether these were residences or temples. This “either-or” developed out of a more common Judeo-Christian pattern of religious life in which home and temple were separated. In Vietnamese Buddhist culture, they were not separated. How would the city cope with assuring religious liberty for people with a new pattern of religious life?

The dialogue was fruitful, though long. The plans drawn up for the temple’s expansion were carefully reviewed by both the city and the temple committee. Though it covered not quite one acre, the city agreed that a small temple could be built behind the current ranch-style residence. There was not enough parking, but the front yard would be transformed into a parking lot. On festival occasions, the temple could use the parking lot of the U.C.C. church down the street. Step by step, both the city and the temple made their compromises.

On May 14, 1995, the day of the Buddha’s 2539th Birthday, the new Lien Hoa Temple was dedicated—a small but beautiful structure built in the backyard of the house on Bixby Street. Though it was a Sunday, and Mother’s Day at that, the church offered its parking lot to the overflowing crowd. The mayor, the chairman of the code enforcement office, the lawyers for both sides, and neighbors were all present, along with hundreds of members of the Buddhist community. Mayor Paul Brockwater cut the red ribbon and said, “The Buddha taught harmony to his people, to work with their fellow man. Today, the Buddha would be very happy with the Vietnamese community in Southern California. Congratulations to all of you for putting your temple together and making it a beautiful asset for our community.”

Reverend Holland, minister in the U.C.C. Church said, “As your neighbors, we are delighted to share this community with you. As both Buddhists and Christians we want to work together for peace and harmony  in our neighborhoods. We celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas and you celebrate the birth of Buddha today. Both Buddha and Jesus represent for us truth, light, beauty, harmony, and tranquillity. In a world in which there is so much violence and disharmony,  I pledge to you that we will work together as spiritual people so that our community can become a place where we can live together in harmony and raise our children.”

The Vietnamese lawyer, Mr. Nho, spoke for the whole Buddhist community when he said, “This is a small Buddhist temple, but the dedication of this temple is a giant step forward for the harmony of our neighborhood. It symbolizes one thing that is important for all of us—that people of different backgrounds, of different ethnicity, and of different religious beliefs can live together and resolve our differences in the spirit of understanding.”

The neighbors had their turn at the microphone as well. One woman put it simply: “Thank you for welcoming me to the temple. I also welcome you to the neighborhood. I am very happy to share neighborhood with you folks.”

Dwarakadish Temple: Sayreville, New Jersey

Pluralism Project Research Archive

The Hindus of New Jersey thought the YMCA Building in Sayreville would be the perfect site for a new temple to Lord Krishna. They first negotiated to buy the building in May of 1992, but a year later their dreams still seemed distant. On May 11, 1993  the Sayreville Planning Board had held an open meeting to discuss the temple proposal, with more than two hundred people packed into the hearing room. Among the standing room only crowd were about twenty-five New Jersey Hindus who supported the temple. Many of the others, however, came to persuade the Board to reject the proposal.

The arguments were heated and the microphone was much in demand. Much of the testimony concerned traffic: just how much would a new Hindu temple generate?  Washington Road, where the YMCA is located, is a busy street, also marked on maps of  Northern New Jersey as Highway 535. It winds through green and pleasant suburbs, past a high school, a public library, and eventually a shopping mall, the Dupont Laboratories, and Our Lady of Victory Knights of Columbus Hall. The building was already a YMCA. Would there really be that much more traffic?

The Hindus had retained a traffic engineer, who explained the pattern of worship that could be expected at the temple. Attending the six services a day, seven days a week, might be between five and twenty-five people. On Friday nights, there would be a few more and on Saturdays and Sundays, as many as two hundred spread out through the six services. The major holy days three times a year might garner from 1000  to 2000 people. How much traffic would such a pattern of use generate? Would the current parking lot provide adequate space? Could there be overflow parking in the large lot of the Dupont company across the street? “They only challenged us on traffic, but they were not in favor of having a temple here,” concluded one temple member at the hearings.

The plan was rejected by the Sayreville Planning Board, citing these issues of traffic and parking. But many who had been at the hearing felt that the deeper issue was one of animosity. The fears of the Hindu community were confirmed when the building, still empty, was sprayed with graffiti. “Written on several walls of the building were such expressions as ‘Get out Hindoos’ and ‘KKK,’” the newspaper India Abroad (May 28, 1993) reported. “The mayor of Sayreville, New Jersey, John B. McCormack, said he was ‘not taking lightly’ [these] slogans…”

The Hindu community filed suit in U.S. District Court against the Sayreville Planning Board for “bias and discrimination against Asian Indians and practitioners of the Hindu faith.” They insisted their religious freedom was being denied in the decision of the Board to reject their proposal for a temple. As the New Jersey Law Journal (December 20, 1993) put it, “The plaintiffs also note that the board cited traffic concerns in denying the permit even though the state’s Municipal Land Use Law prohibits use of off-site traffic considerations as a basis for making planning decisions. In addition, the suit alleges that the use of the YMCA as a temple conforms to the borough’s zoning regulations and that even the board’s chairman recognized that there was no legal basis for denying the trust permission to operate its temple.”

The case eventually was settled in mediation between the Hindu community and the Planning Board. The records of the Planning Board meetings reveal the new questions that arise with entirely new patterns of worship. For example, there were no seats in the site plan for the large room planned as the main sanctuary of the temple. The worshippers would sit on the carpeted floor and, when the service began, would stand to sing and press forward toward the altar for the darshan of Krishna. One board member said, “It is not clear in a religious facility without seats how much of that is space where people could be praying at a particular moment.” Another asked what would be “the maximum praying area.” Another noted that “people attending midnight mass on Christmas Eve stand all over the place” and asked how that would be handled in estimating numbers of worshippers and need for parking.

And just how many would come on those three holy days? Should they park some distance away and come in vans? If they parked across the street, should there be a crosswalk? When they filled in the old outdoor YMCA pool, how much new on-site parking would this create? Eventually, the temple agreed to add more on-site parking, and to prohibit on-street parking on its three major holy days, making other arrangements for the large attendance. A representative of the planning board said, in retrospect, “The main consideration had to do with traffic. There is already a lot of traffic on the street, Washington Road. But the temple was a small part of the traffic problem and should not be asked to bear the burden of correcting an already existing problem.”

The temple opened on November 13, 1994, with priests coming from India for the occasion. This particular community of Krishna devotees is called the Pushti Marga, the “Path of Grace,” and the form of Krishna they honor is Krishna as the Divine Child. More than three thousand flocked to the newly-renovated building, which was painted a pale pink and decorated with thousands of flower garlands for the occasion.

Every day since the temple’s opening, the devoted service of Lord Krishna has brought immigrant Hindu Americans to Washington Street in Sayreville. On the carpeted floor sit a cluster of women, chatting in a mixture of Gujarati and English and participating in the seva—or service—the worship of Krishna. One is making a fresh flower garland that Krishna will wear at the next darshan, the happy moment six times each day when the curtain is pulled back and Lord Krishna can be seen. Two other’s are sewing the tiny clothes that Krishna will wear. “This is Krishna’s house now,” explains one. “When we come to the temple, we say in our hearts that it is going to Nanda Baba’s house, where Krishna lived as a child.” The bell rings for the 5:15  evening darshan. The temple room has begun to fill with people stopping by after work. The women stand at the altar rail, hands pressed together in a gesture of greeting, honor, and prayer as the curtain is pulled back. “Jai Shri Krishna!” they exclaim. “Victory to Lord Krishna!”

“Plan For Sikh Religious Center Fails”

The Los Angeles Times (Valley Edition)
June 25, 1993

Jeff Schnaufer with Kurt Pitze

“There’s no traffic problem. There’s no access problem. So everything is fine. It’s discrimination.”

Said attorney Pauline Amond, whose firm represented the Sikhs: “It’s the unknown. Sikhs are relatively new to the community. (Other residents) don’t know how much noise they will make, how loud they will be.”

Amond believes that misunderstanding of the Sikh culture heightened community opposition to the project and may have led to its defeat.

An appeal is likely. “It’s almost unconstitutional to turn down a place of worship of this kind,” Amond said.

[For full article, visit “Plan for Sikh Religious Center Fails.”]

“In Tenn., Location Isn’t the Issue, Religion Is”

National Public Radio
August 19, 2010

Blake Farmer

Many of the opponents of a proposed Islamic center near the World Trade Center site have made the case that an Islamic center is fine—just not there. But in other parts of the country, people are saying, “Not here, either.” A new Islamic center is going up near Nashville, Tenn., and as in New York, the proposal has fractured the community along a divide over religious freedom.

Recently hundreds of protesters marched around the town square in Murfreesboro, Tenn. They carried signs that read, “Enough Is Enough” and “Stop Terrorism.”

[For full audio and article, visit “In Tenn., Location Isn’t the Issue, Religion Is.”] 

“After a Struggle, Mosque Opens in Tennessee”

The New York Times 
August 10, 2012

Robbie Brown and Christine Hauser

The worshipers bowed low, their heads touching the freshly laid carpet, as the new mosque filled with echoes of exultation.

“God, thank you for the ability to worship here today,” said Remziya Suleyman, 27. “Thank you, thank you.”

After years of threats, attacks and court action, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s new mosque opened its doors Friday, allowing 300 people to mark the occasion on Islam’s day of weekly public prayer. After the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday and an arson attack on a mosque in Missouri on Monday, the opening went off without the protests or violence that some had feared.

[For full article, visit “After a Struggle, Mosque Opens in Tennessee.”]

“Feds Launch Formal Investigation into St. Anthony Mosque Reject

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune 
October 29, 2012

Rose French

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis announced Monday it is launching a formal investigation into the rejection of a proposed Islamic center in St. Anthony.

Jeanne Cooney, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, says the agency began a “preliminary” review of the case in June after the St. Anthony City Council voted down the proposed the Abu Huraira Islamic Center. Now the federal agency has “formalized the investigation” and is moving forward on it.

“I would consider this an administrative development,” Cooney said. “We continue to look into it.”

[For full article, visit “Feds Launch Formal Investigation into St. Anthony’s Mosque Rejection.”]

After Long Legal Battle, Hindu Temple in Bridgewater Wins

The Star-Ledger 
May 3, 2009

David Giambusso

After a five-year battle with the Bridgewater zoning board, the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple has won approval for a major expansion of its facility, despite resistance from the township and neighboring residents.

In 2004, temple officials approached the township seeking approval for a large-scale expansion of their cultural center on Route 202, as well as additional housing for priests, and a parking garage.

Neighbors of the 20.5 acre site complained the expansion would encroach on their property and cause increased traffic. Bridgewater denied the expansion three times—in January 2005, December 2005, and May 2006—prompting the temple to file state and federal lawsuits against the township.

[For full article, visit “After Long Legal Battle, Hindu Temple in Bridgewater Wins Expansion Approval.”]