Buddhist monastery sues Walnut for discrimination
A Buddhist monastery is suing Walnut, saying officials in the San Gabriel Valley city were discriminatory in denying plans for a Zen center, and then turning around and approving an even larger Catholic church.
The Chung Tai Zen Center is seeking as much as $2.5 million in damages for the years of planning it did and the city-ordered studies it completed in anticipation of building a monastery on Marcon Drive, a neighborhood of single-family homes, a spacious public park and four churches -- one Mormon, one Lutheran and two catering to Korean American Christians.
The heavily Asian city has already agreed to comply with the settlement terms of a suit filed by the Justice Department, which accused the town of violating the federal religious land use act by standing in the monastery's way.
The Zen center moved to nearby Pomona after officials in Walnut denied its plans.
Some residents in Walnut said opponents of the Zen center made dramatic claims about the proposed project, saying it would attract tourist buses and curiosity seekers. Others, however, said the proposed temple would clog the streets in an already traffic-heavy neighborhood.
"A temple in your backyard? How would you feel?" said Mike Lu, a Buddhist who lives in the same neighborhood as the proposed Zen center and worships at a temple in Baldwin Park.
But Barrett Litt, attorney for the Zen center, had a different take.
"They can't say, 'Well, since we're mostly Asians and most Buddhists are Asians, we can't discriminate against Buddhists,'" Litt said. "The city has to answer the question of what it actually did -- they violated the religious rights of the Zen center."
-- Corina Knoll
Photo: A worshiper enters the Middle Land Chan Monastery, the Zen center's new location in Pomona. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times