In a move that is almost certain to be unconstitutional, the town of Beebe, Arkansas has refused to allow a man to open a pagan temple — after allegedly telling him that it was okay when they thought it was going to be a church. This is only one side of the story, but if what is alleged is true the city is in for legal trouble:
High Priest Bertram Dahl told KARK that Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson had initially supported his plans to open a Seekers temple and spiritual good shop in the garage behind his home.
“When they knew we were going to open a church, it wasn’t an issue,” he explained. “We explained to [the mayor] the house had a building that we could open the church in, and he had no problem.”
But Dahl said that the city’s attitude changed after learning that members of the temple were pagan.“We were basically given a cease and desist you know — shut down. We hadn’t even unpacked. We aren’t even open — how are we getting this,” Dahl asked.
Although he had not even applied for permits yet, Mayor Robertson let it be known that he thought that no conditional or special use permits should be given to Dahl. That same day, the city’s code officer sent a letter ordering Dahl to cease and desist.
City Attorney Barrett Rogers insisted to KARK that Dahl could not be allowed to open the temple because his residential property was not “zoned commercial, which is what’s required for a place of worship or a retail business.”
Dahl, however, pointed out that properties that were zoned R-2 were allowed to have places of worship and private nonprofits, according to the city’s code.
Even without that, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons act (RLUIPA) would likely apply here. He should be calling the ACLU.