Cambodian Buddhist Society of Connecticut, Inc. and Pong Me v. Town of Newton Planning and Zoning Commission
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When the Cambodian Buddhist Society of Connecticut bought 10 acres of land to build the state’s first Buddhist Temple, they were unpleasantly surprised.
The Town of Newtown’s Planning & Zoning Commission denied them permission to build their proposed temple, citing the temple’s Asian architecture and the volume of cars and noise the temple could potentially cause. Represented by Murtha Cullina LLP, the Cambodian Buddhist Society sued under RLUIPA and a Connecticut law guaranteeing religious freedom.
The case went all the way to the state supreme court, where Becket filed an amicus brief arguing that the Cambodian Buddhist Society was entitled to build its temple. Sadly, the justices sided with Newtown, saying officials had acted on “neutral concerns” about public safety rather than religious bias. Their decision was out of step with other state and federal courts, which recognize that RLUIPA and state religious freedom laws apply even when bias cannot be definitely proved.
Becket believes that the 500 million Buddhists around the world have a right to build proper facilities in which to practice their faith, whether they are in Cambodia or Connecticut. Apparently, the state of Connecticut disagrees.