Newtown Dispute Continues Over Buddhist Society's Rights

July 19, 2008

Author: Elizabeth Hamilton

Source: The Hartford Courant,0,3266656.story?page=1

When the Cambodian Buddhist Society lost its plea before the state Supreme Court six months ago to build a temple on a Newtown hilltop, both the residents who lived near the proposed temple and the Buddhists who wanted to build it believed their long battle was over.

But things haven't worked out the way anyone expected.

Instead of detente, the dispute between the two sides — which began nearly a decade ago when the society began hosting large festivals on its property — has continued to boil, with neighbors counting cars and taking pictures while society members complain about intolerance.

The most recent standoff took place last week before the Newtown Zoning Board of Appeals as the Buddhist society sought to have a cease-and-desist order issued by the town's zoning enforcement officer overturned. The order — which was issued on April 16 after neighbors complained that there were at least 60 cars on the property three days earlier — instructs the society to "cease all religious services and festivals permanently."

At issue, though, this time is what, exactly, constitutes a "religious service or festival" and whether or not the Supreme Court decision prohibits the society from holding any large gatherings that are deemed to be religious in nature on the site.

See also: Buddhism, Zoning