SCOTUS rules Fremont can order woman to tear down unpermitted Buddhist temple

ByRyan Curry KGO logo
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
SCOTUS rules in Fremont's favor over Buddhist temple
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday a Fremont woman must comply with the city's orders to remove a Buddhist temple from her property.

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday a Fremont woman must comply with the city's orders to remove a Buddhist temple she built without permits on her 29-acre property near Mission Peak.

City officials found in 2021 the temple posed fire hazards and ordered MiaoLan Lee to take them down. Lee says the city discriminated against her.

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"Sometimes it makes me wonder if I had been a white woman, would I have been treated differently?" she said. "If I don't stand up I feel like I am not doing myself a favor or the citizens."

Lee filed a lawsuit back in 2021 alleging religious, racial and gender discrimination. She claims her white neighbors have been allowed to build without permits or get permits when they should have been denied.

"My neighbor, who has the same slope, the same zoning, the same fire hazard, the same creek and they had unpermitted work over 10 years," she said. "They were able to get permits for their garage, their cement deck."

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Lee had failed to show the city was motivated by discrimination. Lee says the federal case presentation was not done properly and it led to a misunderstanding with the court. Plus, Lee says there is still a case against the city with the state of California.

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Lee says the state's First District Court of Appeals ordered Fremont to comply with state laws and ensure citizens receive due process. She says Fremont has to pass new laws.

"That is going to help a lot of people, and also help me," she said.

After the new laws are passed, Lee says her lawyers will be ready for a new hearing and start the process over again.

In a statement, the city of Fremont said:

"On Monday, the City of Fremont was made aware that the Supreme Court of the United States denied the Petitioner's petition for writ of certiorari. The City is pleased with the denial, which leaves in place the Ninth Circuit's decision to affirm the U.S. District Court's dismissal of Petitioners' religious discrimination claim against the City of Fremont. The City intends to continue to pursue enforcement action to address the illegally constructed structures located on the Petitioner's property."

Lee says the temple is still up and she will keep it up until all the court battles are settled.

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