Kansas Buddhists barred from building temple due to “Animal Sacrifices”

Via John Pappas
on Feb 19, 2011
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Update: (3/25/11) Johnson Co. Commissioners moved to Remand Application of Buddhist Temple back to the township zoning board ~ The dance continues! view video here.

Basically several members of the rural community where the temple is proposed to be built spoke up about their concerns last night. Unlike previous incarnations of this issue, no statements about animal sacrifices or baying at the moon were included. In fact, most anti-temple folk were well-rehearsed with the specific zoning laws that would keep the Buddhists out of their community. Most comments revolved around the “disharmony” that the temple would bring to their area as well as resulting plummet of real-estate value. Additional concerns about the depression it could cause local farm animals, road issues, social psychological elements of the Buddhist Association’s argument, pollution run-off and the potential crime that it could bring were also brought up.

Supporters of the temple were largely sappy and emotional with comments about the love of Buddhists towards nature and their neighbors. Hardly convincing if I were sitting on the Board of Commissioners.

A highlight of the night’s comments came from Rev Buddy Love from a local Baptist church. The good Reverend welcomed the new temple and commented about his experience with the community there when his family moved in 20+ years ago. They were refused the right to purchase the house over a white family. Then when he moved his predominately African American congregation there he had to apply twice as his church was thought to be “disharmonious” as well. Comments on the pro-temple side also came from a local man who lived near a Laotian temple while staying Texas and described it as a “Jewel of the Area.”

By and large what I heard was privilege. The privilege of the local community to pick and choose who had a right to build and worship in their area. A privilege we do not have when it effects the civil liberties of others. Fifteen churches in the last 20+ years were build in Johnson County according to what I heard last night and the only objections were levied towards one that was had a largely African American congregation and another that was Asian American.

White Privilege and racial/religious discrimination does not come in a fury of angry voices. It is cold, logical and well-rehearsed. It is the application of an undue burden placed upon certain groups while not on others. The Commission brought this forward in their conversation and I believe it is what they debated the most. Was the burden placed on the Buddhist temple and the Laotian congregation the same standard they set towards the 15 other churches in the area. We can’t hold a magnifying glass over one class, race or grouping of people without applying it uniformly towards the rest.

Telling was the fact that not one of the opponents compared the building of the temple to any other religious body in the neighborhood. They compared it to a Florist Shop, a corporate retreat, and even a McDonald’s. They made the temple into a commercial body so that a certain criteria (the “Golden Criteria”) could be kept that keeps residential areas separate from commercial ones. Again a standard not expected of the many Christian churches in the area, with the possible exception of Rev Buddy Love’s Baptist church.

One lady put it out there last night when she stated that the community’s largest fear was change. Ironically the very thing the Buddhist temple could help them with. In the end the Johnson County Commissioners voted 6-1 in favor of the temple and remanded back to the zoning board to reconsider. The revised plan does not include a 9.600-square-foot worship hall, a separate Buddha temple or a ceremonial gateway. I sincerely wish the best for the community of Johnson County and their new temple.

I think in time the residents there will grow to love the addition of a temple to their community.

Update: (2/24/11)

The Lao Buddhist Association of Olathe will be asking the Johnson County Commission Thursday night to allow temple’s move from Olathe to Johnson County. Their will be a public hearing on the issue.

To sum up the situation: The Lao Buddhist Association of Olathe’s temple has been located within Olathe since 1997 but due to increased patronage, they are busting at the seams. The plan, as presented by the Buddhist Association, is to move to a 14-acre plot outside of Olathe, to a zone where churches need conditional-use permits.

The Northwest Consolidated Zoning Board voted unanimously to denial the permit on Jan. 24. At the meeting tonight, county commissioners will vote to allow or deny the permit. If allowed it will return it to the zoning board for further consideration. Historically, as in the examples listed above, most successful appeals from Buddhist temples or associations to meet their needs require action from the state level before their concerns are heard and given equal consideration.  View it online

Update: (2/23/11)

Nice to see someone in Kansas is speaking out against what is happening in Olathe. The Interfaith Council of Greater Kansas City issued a statement, stating, [hat tip to Barbara]

“Our community is threatened when any faith is misrepresented….We also understand that two plans for the use of the property have been approved by the professional staff of the county, that all similar plans and purchases in similar neighborhoods have always been approved for over a dozen Christian institutions, but that unfavorable sentiments expressed by some of the neighbors indicate that they may not be accurately informed about the Buddhist faith, appear to ignore our American tradition of religious liberty and may damage the interfaith civility the council seeks to assure for all who live in the metro area.”

OLATHE, KANSAS — A Johnson County Buddhist church has outgrown its building, and they have a new place to worship picked out. But so far they have been denied the right to use it, and a metro Buddhist leader says that zoning isn’t the reason why they can’t move in.

The Lao-Buddhist Association is trying to move its Olathe temple to a location along 119th Street in Olathe. But the Johnson County Board of Commissioners has so far denied the group a conditional use permit. Neighbors say that the area the Buddhists have chosen is zoned residential, but Lama Chuck Stanford of the Rime Buddhist Center says that discrimination is the real reason behind the opposition.

“This is clearly just ugliness of ethnic and religious prejudice,” said Stanford.

Neighbors, who refused to go on camera, told FOX 4 that being opposed to the Buddhist temple doesn’t make him a bigot, while another neighbor told FOX 4 that other commercial proposals in the neighborhood have been declined as well.

Standord notes that Christian churches are common in residential areas, and that comments made by residents during a January zoning board meeting indicate fear and ignorance. At the meeting, people raised concerns about traffic, water pollution and “animal sacrifices,” along with noise from gongs, which Stanford says are no louder than church bells.

“I’m so shocked that this year, in 2011, in Johnson County, their people would be a little more liberal, and better educated, than that,” said Stanford.

The Johnson County Department of Planning, Development and Codes has recommended approval of the Buddhist’s permit. But the Northwest Consolidated Zoning Board voted unanimously to recommend denial of the request.

The Lao-Buddhist Association has submitted a second, scaled-back plan to the board, but neighbors say that if it is passed it will open the door for other commercial properties in the area. The Board of Commissioners will take up the issue next Thursday night.

[via FOX4KC]

Welcome to America! Where you are free to practice any religion as long as it is Christian. If it isn’t, we just don’t want to have it in our backyard. If you persist we will be sure to hide behind zoning laws and obscure regulations (not enough parking, statue too large, animal sacrifices, don’t want tourists visiting) that have been waived for other “proper” churches. Maybe the good people of Olathe should hang out with the the Buddhist community of Utica, NY or Walnut, Ca. for similar lessons. I live in a residential area here in Rapid City and am flanked by churches, at least 10 in a 4 square block radius. I don’t mind as people need to have a place to practice but I am confused why that right is dictated by religion or ethnic/racial differences.

A few other examples of zoning law discrimination towards Buddhist Centers:

  1. Berkeley Thai Buddhist temple ~ Asian Pacific Americans for Progress
  2. Vietnamese Buddhist Temple (Lansing, MI) ~ The State News
  3. Bat Nha Meditation Institute (Los Angeles, CA) ~ LA Times
  4. Yuan Yung Retreat Center (Rowland Hieghts, CA) ~ Buddhist Channel
  5. Dau Trang Minh Dang Quang Temple (Utica, NY) ~ WickedLocal
  6. Cambodian Buddhist Society of Connecticut (Newtown, Conn.) ~ The Newtown Bee
  7. Aram Buddhist Temple (Olive Township, MI) ~ The Holland Sentinel
  8. Chung Tai Zen Center (Walnut, CA) ~ God Discussion
  9. Dai Dang Monastery (Camino del Rey, CA) ~ North County Times
  10. Tam-Bao Buddhist Temple (Tusle, OK) ~ Tulsa World
  11. Virginia Beach Temple (Virginia Beach, VA) ~ Hampton Roads
  12. Homeless Vietnamese Zen group (Jackson, Miss) ~ Wildmind Blog

So, one things stands out. All of these issues brought up by citizens were with primarily Asian American sanghas. I could not find one single convert, predominately non-Asian temple or Zen Center that were hit with the same road-blocks. Granted my search was not by any means definitive but it does show a general trend ~ That zoning laws are used as a racist vehicle against Asian American Buddhist communities.

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About John Pappas

John Pappas is a struggling Zen practitioner with a slight Vajrayana palate (but he won't admit it) stumbling between the relative and absolute through the Buddhist Purgatory otherwise known as the Great Plains of South Dakota. Emerging writer, librarian and aspiring hungry ghost, John spews his skewed perception of the dharma all over his personal blog, Subtle Dharma Mouth Punch as well as on the ephemeral Elephant Journal and occasionally (while having no artistic ability to speak of) on Dharma/Arte. John also loves tacos, homebrew, yoginis and obscure Cthulhu references. You can follow him on twitter under the handle @zendustzendirt


46 Responses to “Kansas Buddhists barred from building temple due to “Animal Sacrifices””

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Waylon Lewis, Jack Daw and Anna Wijaya, Red Fox. Red Fox said: Kansas Buddhists barred from building temple due to “Animal Sacrifices” http://bit.ly/funZk7 […]

  2. Dan says:

    I grew up across the state line in Kansas City, MO. The whole KC area is filled with bigots, especially religious bigots. While there are many who are informed enough to know a little about religions other than their own, most are willfully ignorant, and hateful, of any religion other then their own, including most other Christians. Unfortunately, this doesn't surprise me in the least.

  3. ellen says:

    The law of karma is to be repealed in Arizona http://www.thereformedbuddhist.com/2011/02/arizon
    and china bans unlicensed tulkus http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2007/08/22/china-ba

  4. That is fine. I personally repealed the law of gravity in Delaware and removed evolution from Alabama (which is pretty obvious if you ever visited Alabama…YeeeeHAW!).

    I am fine with stricter regulations on tulkus, however. For example one should not be able to carry a concealed tulku into a supermarket or grocery store. When driving, all tulkus should be locked in a case, loaded with serotonin and placed in the trunk. This removes the temptation of using a tulku during a fit of rage or in the heat of the moment. Tulkus should also be stored out of the reach of children or the mentally deranged.

    China is only looking out for the safety of their people…

    And Arizona is pretty much effing insane.

  5. On a positive note…Love the art choice for this article! The Buddha is by Renta & Mac. An earlier version "on canvas" displayed in their gallery of graffiti murals was the inspiration for my business name, Zensational Creations. I was amazed when Marquis gave me permission to use the version shown on my website. A lot of people would have been all greedy and screamed "COPYRIGHTED MATERIALS"! Check out RETNA and I would love to hear reviews. Here is one of may places to view :http://www.digitalretna.com/

  6. Thanks! Send me the contact info (click on my profile on elephant) and I will contact them for permission. As it stands the image was one of a cache I found online of Buddhsit graffiti.

  7. NotSoSure says:

    Zendirtz- How about trying to open your mind so that some of your ignorance and arrogance can be swept away? You can make smart comments and generalizations about people based on where they live. It is a free country. But respect must be earned.

  8. I listed examples above of this same behavior over and over again across the country in relation to Asian Sanghas. State Supreme Court in CA ruled it unconstitutional. Grassroots groups are complaining about animal sacrifices while Christian churches pop up like weeds with little to no argument. So application of these regulations is not uniformly applied across cultural and racial lines.

    So where is the arrogance? Where are the generalizations?

    Open your eyes and don't concern yourself with my mind.

  9. Well, it is good to give credit where credit is due. I figured it was some unknown random (albeit awesome) artist that did the work and then blended back into the night…

  10. NotSoSure says:

    ZenDirt: Example of your arrogance and narrow mindedness
    “And Arizona is effing insane”
    “which is pretty obvious if you ever visited Alabama”
    Your comments are narrow minded because you use generalizations to lump people together based on where they live. The tenor of your comments displays arrogance.
    I completely understand your anger. But where we differ is that I also understand that there are many different people with many different viewpoints and I do not make the mistake of lumping people together based on where they make their homes.

  11. Good morning NotSoSure,

    Meet my friend Humor!

    I am sure you both have lots to talk about.

    And just to clarify, I live in SD which is just as effing insane and grew up Delaware with is just as inbred and lived for most of my life in NJ and please by all means include whatever stereotype you wish for the Garden State as there are plenty that apply.

    Oi. I get a headache just thinking about Snooki….although she is from Long Island.

    No arrogance here. I seem just as dumb and backwards to those people I am railing about. They send me glorious emails about how they wished I would commit suicide or will burn in hell. Etc Etc Etc. I assume, of course they are joking with me and take it as such.


  12. I think you are ok as far as net etiquette goes.

    But I am curious (as this seems to be central to the reason why the temple is being refused) how the Buddhist place (temple, meditation center?) was considered "commercial."

    As i can see, a place of practice should be close (relatively) to the community that is going to frequent it. So a residential place would make sense.


  13. 13thfloorelevators says:

    You mean they *found* it unconstitutional. The California Supreme Court is not charged with interpreting the federal constitution.

  14. 13thfloorelevators says:

    Yes, Alabama actually has some very good, not so ass backward, case law on a number of issues involving religion. I'm guessing this is not something he bothered to look into when making that comment.

  15. Oh boohoo! Big bad blogger didn't research case law before making a joke.

    But I am being reactionary…please include that case law (perhaps a link or two) to inform myself and the rest of us. It would be beneficial.

    Really, it would.

  16. Thank you for the correction! This comment was actually helpful <hug>

  17. 13thfloorelevators says:

    I don't think a link would really cover it. Feel free to conduct research if you're interested.

  18. 13thfloorelevators says:

    You stated, "which is pretty obvious if you ever visited Alabama." Yes, horribly un-evolved, those Alabamans. Why is this comment even made unless you think Alabama is a backwater state that would be intolerant in precisely the way you find abhorrent. Yet visiting the state tells you very little about how the courts there would treat an issue like this, which is something *you* brought up as a factor precisely because the application of regulations not being uniformly applied across cultural and racial issues is a question for the courts, ultimately. The entire discussion you are focusing on here involves legislative intent, as well as statutory interpretation. Who the fuck do you think does that? Some guy at the gas station in Montgomery? Case law is probably the most relevant thing you could be looking at to decide just how closed minded the state is regarding this kind of issue.
    Failure to take into consideration the very standard you believe is important for the very thing you are criticizing before making a such a comment is decidedly ignorant, i.e., bigoted.

  19. 13thfloorelevators says:

    You realize you are just the sort of person who makes "liberals" look like uninformed tards?

  20. joqatana says:

    If Spirit Rock bothers to differentiate between "people" and "people of color" what do you expect from the Real Bigots?

  21. Fine. Don't include a link. Don't back your self up. Up to you.

  22. Good catch. My credentials are blown. Go pat yourself on the back and go home a furfilled man.

    Still laughing that you are so worked up over one comment.

  23. And there it is…

    You actually called me a retard.

    My conversation is over with you. You are just trolling now. No link, no backing up your comments. Just a crack on my intelligence and then a personal shot at me.

    Which is fine. Feel free to call me a retard over the entire internet if it makes you feel better.



  24. You mentioned your experience about Spirit Rock before to me (on twitter). I am very curious about your experiences there being a former Special Education teacher myself (and the fact that you are very vocal about your behavioral disabilities).

    Maybe you could write something for Elephant Journal (but my invite to post on my blog is still open…)


  25. Ok wait. One more comment.

    Well it is a good thing that an entire state of inbred red-necks can counterbalance my liberal retardism!

    Thank you and good night!

  26. Bartleby says:

    That's horrifying, considering the ideals this country is supposed to stand for. There are no words to describe the horrifying crime committed in these instances and similar instances that have been happening for Muslims.

    On an entirely unrelated subject, Γιαννης Παππας; Εισαι ελληνας;

  27. 13thfloorelevators says:

    "Look like"

  28. 13thfloorelevators says:

    Wait, you seriously want a "link" to case law? Try this. http://www.findlaw.com/

  29. 13thfloorelevators says:

    How was that worked up? It took me 40 seconds to point that out.

  30. WOW! Thanks so much for sharing Kimberly's work. It is gorgeous.

  31. Yes, it is horrifying and sad that we leverage zoning laws against Asian Buddhists and Muslims (although I am sure if you look hard enough you will find instances against most non-Christians).

    And ναι, είμαι Έλληνας but only because my Father is. Other than that I am a standard American mutt.


  32. Thanks again. You are sweet. Feel free to comment as much as you wish!


  33. There are more instances than I can possibly find. I recall some events in TN as well that I can't locate the articles. And again the glaring thing in my mind is that these are all targeted at Asian sanghas. The example in Utica also included statements from the community where an increase of Asian American youths into the area was listed as a reasonable concern…but you can check my post Everything is Zen in Walnut for more on that.

    Cheers brother! Always good to hear from you.

  34. […] As John points out, “All of these issues brought up by citizens were with primarily Asian American sanghas.” He’s been unable to find any predominately non-Asian temple or Zen Center that has been hit with the same road-blocks. That’s been my own finding as we’ve reposted news stories on Wildmind. […]

  35. Gonpo Tashi says:

    . Dear John Pappas; Would you like a little bit of chesse with that whine. It sounds to me like there are a few people here on this board that would like to join the long list of victims that is beginning to populate America.
    Chin Up and Cheer Up

  36. Bodhipaksa says:

    I don't know squat about Spirit Rock in particular, but I know a couple of predominantly white Dharma centers who had trouble attracting members from other ethnic groups, because people from those groups felt they would be out of place going there. And holding events for "people of color" helped break down barriers. Obviously if no real integration occurs, then that policy is limited. But as a skillful means it seems to be worth trying.

  37. I am confused by this as well. It sounds like you have some experience with this. Do you? If so I would love to hear how you dealt with it.

    "Join the long list of victims" ~ wanting to join? I am missing your point. Why would someone want to be discriminated against? Most of the groups I listed have to fight for the simple hope of expanding their sangha in lieu of bureaucratic discrimination and the ignorance of their neighbors. I think their "whining" is something that needs to be heard.

    And for the record, I take olives with my wine.

  38. Linda says:

    What animal sacrifices?!

  39. You know…the ones that all Buddhists do when no-one is looking. Usually immediately after praising the Dark Lord Voldemort.

  40. I did a brief post on this issue Racism in Buddhism where I recommended some wonderful resources. Some that I know Spirit Rock utilize.

    Definitely check out the essay I link to called "Making the Invisible Visible: Healing Racism in our Buddhist Communities" it is a series of essays written by practitioners of color on why they are uncomforatable with certain predominately "white" sanghas.


  41. "White Privilege and racial/religious discrimination does not come in a fury of angry voices. It is cold, logical and well-rehearsed. It is the application of an undue burden placed upon certain groups while not on others. "

    Fantastic words. Magnificently said John.

  42. Thanks for the kind words Richard and thanks for reading.


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