After months of at times tense deliberation, Buddhists in Toledo, Ohio, have been given permission to begin construction of a new temple. Toledo City Council voted 11:1 earlier this month to approve construction of a 750-square-meter facility in what is currently a purely residential neighborhood. Officials had delayed approval due to the concerns of neighborhood residents. Work clearing the way for the new temple has begun.
After plans for the temple were unveiled in February, area resident Brenda Watkins said, “This has been a quiet neighborhood and we’re just not ready for it. We don’t want it regardless of what religion they are, that’s not our concern. Our concern is we don’t want the traffic flow.” (13abc)
Michael Leizerman, who owns the land and plans to donate it to the temple, sought to reassure residents by noting that the temple would be 30 meters into the woods and thus out of sight from most on the quiet street, and that no more than 30 cars would use the road during temple activities. He said at the time that he had checked with the planning commission to make sure that the area was zoned for religious buildings and it was.
“We looked at this beautiful property and thought Zen Temple in Toledo is on a lease, wouldn’t it be nice for it to have a permanent home that is quiet and in the woods?” said Liezerman. (13abc)
Councilman Tyrone Riley, who represents the district where the temple will be built, was the only councilman to vote against the temple. Riley noted that area residents “were seeking to preserve and protect and maintain the integrity of their neighborhood.” (Toledo Blade)
Councilman Tyrone Riley. From toledoblade.com
The Toledo Buddhist community, currently composed of around 100 members, has been renting space since 2001 and leaders have expressed a desire to expand the temple with a home of its own.
The temple’s stated mission is to foster “the teachings of Zen Buddhism as adapted to Western cultural forms and traditions by providing training in the disciplines, practices, and devotions of Zen Buddhism and by providing suitable surroundings, instruction, and support for the teaching and practice of Zen Buddhism.” (Buddhist Temple of Toledo)
In an open letter on 5 August, Ed Hielman, the Pastor of Park Congregational United Church of Christ in Toledo, wrote: “As a Christian pastor, I am very happy to have a Buddhist community here. We share a common vision of compassion and justice for all. We will be excellent neighbors for each other. I am so glad to live in northwest Ohio, where I have been welcomed and accepted in churches, mosques, and temples. Now I extend a warm Toledo welcome to the Great Heartland Buddhist Temple.” (Toledo Blade)
Rev. Rinsen and Rev. Do-on of the Buddhist Temple of Toledo. From buddhisttempleoftoledo.org
In a statement to Buddhistdoor Global, Rev. Rinsen, abbot of the Buddhist Temple of Toledo, said, “The temple is grateful for the outpouring of support from the Toledo City Council, the mayor’s office, and the vast majority of the city’s residents. This experience has brought the sangha here together and given us a great opportunity to practice the bodhisattva precepts in the world.”
He continued, “We have taken up the way of speaking and advocating for our rights while seeing everyone with the eyes of compassion, and we look forward to being good neighbors in the years to come.”