California city settles RLUIPA suit with Buddhist group

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

According to the Walnut Patch, the Walnut, California City Council voted Wednesday to approve a $900,000 settlement with the Chung Tai International Chan Buddhist Association in a RLUIPA lawsuit. In 2008, the city denied a conditional use permit to the Association, then known as the Chung Tai Zen Center.  The Buddhist group wanted to build a temple on land it owned.  The denial led the Zen Center to move to another facility in Pamona. The Justice Department filed a RLUIPA lawsuit, and the Buddhist Association then intervened as a plaintiff in order to attempt to recover damages. The Justice Department settled with the city last year, obtaining changes in the city’s zoning policies. (See prior posting.) The settlement involves a public apology by the city as well as the monetary payment.