Hindu community in Nevada alleges discrimination over temple construction restrictions

[Source]

The Hindu community in Henderson, Nevada, is accusing the city of discrimination, citing a 2023 ordinance change that restricts religious assemblies on certain areas.

Key points:

  • A Hindu temple set to be built on a 5-acre land at Lisbon Street and Berlin Avenue was initially approved by the city’s planning commission in 2022. Founders of the American Hindu Association (AHA) had bought the land for about $450,000 in 2021.

  • The plan, however, was met with opposition from community residents and then-Councilwoman Michelle Romero, who is now mayor.

  • The AHA says the city of Henderson updated its rural code ordinance in 2023, prohibiting religious facilities in certain areas and consequently prompting accusations of religious discrimination.

The details:

  • Residents opposed to the temple appealed the city's decision, claiming it would ruin the rural preservation area. However, the City Council voted 4-1 to deny their appeal and granted the AHA a conditional use permit, which would expire one year later.

  • Before the permit was set to expire, the city changed its ordinance to impose prevent "large, intensive uses," such as airports, police stations, fire stations, cemeteries and shooting ranges. Schools and religious facilities, meanwhile, are not allowed on certain streets.

  • The city claims that the change was not targeted at any groups. Romero, who voted for the residents’ appeal, cited concerns about preserving the neighborhood's character.

  • Romero added that “while the Hindu temple use is no longer allowed in that area, their Conditional Use Permit, which was approved, would have allowed them to build had they met the conditions before its expiration.”

  • AHA co-founder Baba Anal, however, disputes this claim, asserting that the city denied their request for an extension despite nearly completing the necessary paperwork. Anal also criticized the city for imposing “unnecessary obstacles” on the temple project.

What's next:

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  • The AHA has reached out to the Department of Justice, alleging violations of civil and religious rights. The city, for its part, maintains the ordinance change was not targeted at any specific use and encourages collaboration for alternate locations.

  • If the DOJ does not rule in their favor, the AHA plans to sue the city in federal court.

 

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