the berkeley thai temple wins

We've been following the neighborhood battle for the Berkeley Thai Temple for the better part of the year now. Irate neighbors had been trying to shut down the Temple's traditional Sunday Food Offering -- a twenty-five year tradition -- complaining about traffic, noise and odors to the Zoning Adjustment Board.

But here's the good news. The Temple won. Decisively. Last month, the Berkeley Mayor and City Council recently voted unanimously (9-0) to permit the Wat Mongkolratanaram Berkeley Thai Temple to continue its Sunday food offerings. Here's the press release from the Asian Law Caucus:

Asian Law Caucus Applauds Berkeley City Officials' vote to uphold Thai Temple's rights to hold Sunday Food Offerings

BERKELEY, CA. - The Asian Law Caucus, a 37 year old civil rights organization, celebrated a unanimous (9 to 0) vote by the Berkeley Mayor and City Council to permit the Wat Mongkolratanaram Berkeley Thai Temple to continue its Sunday food offerings.

"The struggle of the Berkeley Thai Temple is another example of religious exclusion aimed at communities of color, in particular immigrant communities, that are less aware of zoning laws and more vulnerable to attack," said Dionne Jirachaikitti, a community advocate at the Asian Law Caucus.

ALC Staff Attorney, Veena Dubal added, "The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) protects religious institutions like the Thai temple from unfair use of zoning laws to prohibit religious activity."

The temple came under fire last year when neighbors on Oregon Street, adjacent to the temple, began complaining about traffic, noise, and odors to the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB). At that time, young Asian American community members came together to form the Save the Thai Temple (STTT) collective in order to advocate for the temple and its right as a religious institution to practice the Buddhist tradition of merit-making through the popular Sunday food offerings.

The Asian Law Caucus joined the campaign in October of last year recognizing that the use of zoning decisions to impede on the rights of the Thai community to exercise Buddhist traditions perpetuates a system of social inequality.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington sent a message to STTT and Berkeley constituents after the decision thanking the community for participating in the democratic process by attending meetings and emailing or calling his office to voice their opinions. He also commended Councilmember Max Anderson, whose district the temple is in, saying he "made the motion to do the right thing and approve the permit."

The city council decision culminated a 17-month struggle that included six mediation sessions, four ZAB hearings, and several compromises by the temple including cutting Sunday hours by half.

"This was a classic example of community members out-organizing the opposition and working in coalition to create real change in our communities," said Titi Liu, Executive Director of the Asian Law Caucus. She continued, "This is a huge victory not only for the Berkeley Thai Temple, but for all of our communities. We are honored to have been part of this campaign and work with the Thai community."
This is great news. It's been a long fight, but they've won with help of a lot of community support. Finally, some peace and relief for the Thai Temple, who can go on doing what they were trying to do in the first place -- serve the community. For more information on recent developments, go here: Save Sundays at the Berkeley Thai Temple.

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