August 1, 2006

Calif. county wrong in blocking Sikh temple: court

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A U.S. federal appeals court
ruled on Tuesday that a California county acted improperly in
blocking a Sikh group from building a temple in a residential
or agricultural area.

A county planning board twice denied the Guru Nanak Sikh
Society of Yuba City, north of the state capital Sacramento,
permission to build a Sikh temple on what was zoned as
agricultural or residential land.

In upholding a lower court ruling on the dispute, the U.S.
9th Circuit Court of Appeals cited a 1993 U.S. law that bars
substantial burdens to the exercise of religion and found that
Sutter County officials acted improperly.

"Because the county's actions have to a significantly great
extent lessened the prospect of Guru Nanak being able to
construct a temple in the future, the county has imposed a
substantial burden on Guru Nanak's religious exercise," Judge
Carlos Bea wrote for a three-member panel.

"We also decide that the County did not assert, much less
prove, compelling interests for its action."