Virginia Beach Says Rural Home is No Place for Buddhist Center

September 4, 2007


Source: Daily Press/The Virginian Pilot,0,4331415.story

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Is it a home? Or a house of worship?

A four-acre ranch near the corner of Princess Anne and West Neck roads is both, and the ambiguity has created a face-off between religion and regulation in the rural fields of Pungo.

The issue started last year when a master Buddhist monk moved into the four-bedroom, $950,000 house. Two younger monks live with him and others pass through the house.

Meditative services were held there, then holiday celebrations. Cars pulled up often. Portable bathrooms were set up one weekend. One day, a tour bus showed up. Neighbors complained and, in January, master monk Thanh Cong Doan asked the city to allow the Buddhist Education Center of America Inc. to operate out of his home.

And so, at last week's City Council meeting, church met state.

"What it really comes down to... is does this council have the right to say nobody can come to visit people's homes?" Councilman Bob Dyer asked at the meeting. "Do we have the right?"

The answer was: yes, kind of.