January 18, 2012 Statement
The Zen Center has received many inquires about the lawsuit which it filed against the City of Walnut for religious discrimination and for substantially burdening the Center’s free exercise of religion. The Zen Center wishes to take this opportunity to clarify its position and reasons for filing the lawsuit and seeking monetary damages.
For nearly ten years the Zen Center attempted to establish a location in the City of Walnut. The Center applied for a Conditional Use Permit to build and operate a house of worship and worked closely with the City to convince it to grant the Zen Center a conditional use permit, as Walnut had done for every other Church requesting it – including a much larger Church with far greater community impact. The Center did everything the City asked, including presenting detailed plans and traffic studies that demonstrated there would be no significant impact on the neighborhood. Notwithstanding these facts, the Center’s request was denied, forcing the Center to relocate to Pomona to achieve its goal of serving the local community. The United States government investigated the matter and found that the City had violated the Center’s civil and religious rights, and, therefore, filed a lawsuit against the City in federal court for violating the Center’s rights. However, the United States could not seek compensation for the Center’s significant financial losses.
The Zen Center’s decision to file its lawsuit against the City of Walnut came only after serious reflection and deliberation. The Zen Center’s reason for pursuing this lawsuit is simple. The City has continued to refuse to acknowledge any wrong doing, and, given the City’s continued obstinacy, the Center believes that this lawsuit is necessary to protect religious justice and religious freedom for all individuals and religious institutions. The amount sought by the Zen Center is limited to the actual losses caused by the City of Walnut’s discriminatory actions. If the Center does recover money, it will only be used for charitable, religious tolerance and religious freedom purposes, and not for any personal gain for the Center or any individual. At this time, the legal process is ongoing; the case has neither gone to trial, nor settled. The City of Walnut has not admitted any wrongdoings either.
We look forward to the coming of religious equality by long-termed efforts. We seek your understanding regarding the course that we have taken — believing as we do, that by bringing into the light, the dark specters of discrimination, intolerance and injustice, we can help hasten the arrival of religious equality and justice for everyone.