Buddhist temple files federal discrimination lawsuit against City of Fremont

At the Temple of 1001 Buddhas, located on a hillside in Fremont, a legal fight is playing out over religious freedom.

Buddhist Master MiaoLan Lee filed a federal lawsuit Friday against the City of Fremont Friday for violating her right to practice her religion and for racial discrimination.

"I'm sure they picked me because I am Asian, and I am a religious woman and my gender," said Lee.

"The City of Fremont is telling MiaoLan where she can pray in the United States of America. This is stunning," says Lee's attorney Angela Alioto.

The dispute between the temple and Fremont has lasted years. It even includes a large police search of the property.

The argument is over permits for several buildings constructed on the property.

"Miss Lee went out and got the permits to the temple, meditation room, her God house. She did everything they told her to do. Then they told her they have to do more," said Alioto

"If I had been a white woman I am sure this would not have happened," said Lee.

The City of Fremont issued a statement: "It’s disheartening to learn that a claim is being filed against the city. We are a community that celebrates our diversity and we are proud to have one of the largest Asian populations in the Bay Area."

City building inspection records claim zoning violations, that Lee cut into the hillside without approval, which is causing potential harm to neighbors, wildlife, and the environment.

The city wants the buildings demolished. Lee says she is willing to get whatever permits are necessary. 

"Ultimately what I would like is to have peace," said Lee.

An administrative hearing on this issue, separate from the lawsuit, is scheduled for next month.