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Justice Department sues Walnut for blocking Buddhist temple construction

September 13, 2010 |  2:20 pm

Federal prosecutors sued Walnut for religious discrimination Monday, saying the city unfairly denied a Buddhist house of worship a land-use permit.

The city rejected the Chung Tai Zen Center a conditional-use permit to build and operate a temple on property it owned in 2008. According to federal prosecutors, that denial was the first of its kind in almost three decades.

The complaint points to a permit granted for a Catholic church later that year that was larger than the proposed Zen center.

“Religious freedom is among our most cherished rights, and our nation’s laws prohibit cities and towns from discriminating based on religion,” Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division, said in a release. “No faith should be singled out for inferior treatment when it seeks to build a house of worship in compliance with local zoning laws.”

Walnut is located in the southeastern part of Los Angeles County, and has a population of about 32,000, including a high percentage of Asian Americans.

The denial violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, according to the complaint.

-- Robert Faturechi