Buddhist congregation allowed to pursue lawsuit

Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2007

An appeals panel says the Little Tokyo group's action against an umbrella organization can continue

Los Angeles, CA (USA) -- A small Buddhist congregation in Little Tokyo will be allowed to pursue a property lawsuit against an umbrella Buddhist organization, a state appeals panel has ruled.

The decision by a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles came in a lawsuit filed by Jodo Shu Betsuin against Jodoshu North America Buddhist Missions, which oversees the Buddhist denomination's operations in North America.

The Sept. 25 ruling reversed a trial court's decision for summary judgment in the case.

In 2003, after a leadership dispute with its parent body, the Betsuin congregation was expelled from the Jodo Shu organization and barred from using the temple at 442 E. 3rd St. in downtown Los Angeles.

It has since met at the nearby Japanese American Cultural & Community Center.

The ruling allows the congregation of mainly second-generation Japanese Americans to pursue financial claims, and claims to artifacts and other property at the temple, including an altar and statues of Buddhist figures, attorneys said.

The appeals panel let stand the congregation's eviction from the building, saying it was a religious issue and not appropriate to address in civil court.