07/26/2016: Buddhist Meditation Center Files Suit Against the City of Mobile
The Thai Meditation Association of Alabama filed suit in federal court against the City of Mobile, Alabama, its City Council and Planning Commission, challenging the denial of planning approval for a small Buddhist meditation center on a 6.7 acre property that is zoned to permit religious uses.
The Complaint describes the substantial hostility faced by the Center from local residents during the zoning proceedings on the Center’s planning approval applications. It states that City officials treated Buddhist worship activity, which includes meditation, chanting, Buddhist lectures and alms offering ceremonies, differently and worse than other forms of worship that are accepted by the City.
“This is exactly the kind of discrimination against new or unfamiliar faiths that motivated Congress to enact RLUIPA,” said Roman P. Storzer, attorney for the Center. “The Center played by the rules, but the City moved the goalposts. There is no good reason why a small Buddhist meditation center cannot exist harmoniously at this location.”
Media Release (July 26, 2016)
"The focus here is [the City] questioning what this Buddhist group does as religious or not," said Storzer. "It's clearly part of their religious traditions. . . . [T]hey are entitled to the same protections as anyone else."
J. Sharp, "Meditation center complaint alleges constitutional violations by Mobile officials," AL.com (July 26, 2016)