US files religious discrimination suit against Calif. city for denying Buddhist center permit

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The U.S. Justice Department has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the Southern California city of Walnut, claiming it unfairly denied a permit to a group seeking to build and run a Buddhist center.

The lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles seeks a court order saying the city violated federal law and an injunction to prohibit Walnut officials from discriminating against the Chung Tai Zen Center and other religious organizations.

Federal officials say Walnut denied the center's application in January 2008 and had not done that to any other religious group that sought a conditional use permit since at least 1980.

The city manager did not immediately return a phone message.