Buddhist Temple Sues California City for Discrimination Over Armed ‘Raids’

Fremont

A Buddhist temple in Fremont, Calif., is suing the city for racial discrimination, denial of religious freedom and invasion of privacy over armed “raids” into the site that allegedly reached the owner’s home and did not spare her makeup kit.

How the dispute started: Fremont city officials say that the Temple of 1001 Buddhas on Mill Creek Road has several structures that do not meet building codes and were built without proper permits.

  • Fremont started investigating the temple in 2017 following a complaint of unpermitted construction, according to city spokesperson Geneva Bosques.
  • After several meetings and two visits from armed police — which included some riot gear and a canine unit — the city ordered the temple to demolish three buildings, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
  • Aside from allegedly erecting buildings without inspections, the temple is accused of having an unpermitted treehouse and improper water storage.
  • The city says the temple also sits on steep land in a highly dangerous fire zone and that the area is prone to landslides from earthquakes.
  • In a statement, Bosques said the city is “disheartened” over the suit, adding, “We are a community that celebrates our diversity and we are proud to have one of the largest Asian populations in the Bay Area.”
Image Screenshot via KPIX 5

What the temple is saying: Temple founder MiaoLan Lee said the city violated Constitutional rights in a civil lawsuit filed in an Oakland federal court last week.

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  • Instead of building codes and permits, the suit centers on violations against Lee and her partner’s civil rights.
  • “I’m sure they picked me because I am Asian, and I am a religious woman and my gender,” Lee told KTVU, adding that she just wants “to have peace.”
  • The city is accused of “discrimination based on religion, race or national origin, retaliation, unreasonable search or seizure, invasion of privacy, arbitrary discrimination, violation of religious land use laws” and, under California’s Constitution, “denial of religious free exercise.”
  • Lee’s attorney, Angela Alioto, confirmed that her client constructed or remodeled some structures without first receiving the required permits. However, she pointed out that Lee had paid the filing fees and was given the runaround for years, according to ABC7 News.  
  • Alioto also questioned the city’s installation of cameras outside the temple. “They don’t want a Buddhist temple, they don’t want a group of Buddhist people, they don’t want Asians. This had nothing to do with permits, it had everything to do with trying to scare them,” she told the Chronicle.

An administrative hearing separate from the lawsuit is scheduled next month, KTVU noted.

Featured Image via KPIX 5 (left) and KTVU (right)

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