Justice Dept. sues Walnut for alleged religious discrimination

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The federal government Monday sued the city of Walnut, alleging that the San Gabriel Valley city engaged in religious discrimination when it denied a land use permit for a Buddhist temple.

The complaint alleges that Walnut treated the Chung Tai Zen Center’s application to build a temple differently than it did applications from other religious groups. It refers to the city’s approval of a permit for a Catholic church that, when completed, will be larger than the temple. The complaint also says that Walnut hasn’t denied a permit to build a house of worship in nearly three decades.

In a press release, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said “no faith should be singled out for inferior treatment when it seeks to build a house of worship in compliance with local zoning laws.”

About 30,000 people live in Walnut. More than half are Asian-American.

The complaint alleges that the city violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The federal government seeks an injunction to prohibit Walnut from discriminating against the Zen Center.

Walnut city officials did not return a call for comment.

KPCC wires contributed to this report.