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US: Sikh group wins right to build gurudwara

August 05, 2006 10:37 IST

In a major victory for Sikhs in the United States, a San Francisco court has held that the community has the right to build a gurudwara in their neighbourhood.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has allowed a Sikh congregation to construct a place of worship on land allotted for agriculture in Sutter county.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit law firm known for protecting the free expression of religious traditions, had filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the community.

"This resounding victory for the Sikh group has nationwide implications for a wide range of cases dealing with religious land interests and it will echo especially loudly in California," firm spokesman Jared N Leland said.

Neighbours had complained over the congregation's first bid to locate its gurudwara in a residential part of California's Yuba City, so it acquired land in a rural, agriculturally zoned area in 2002.

The Sutter county then denied them permission, saying it amounted to disorderly development or "leapfrog development" because the site was away from the city.

The brief filed by the Becket Fund in the Guru Nanak Sikh Society vs the County of Sutter case stated that the Sutter County's Board of Commissioners' refusal to issue a building permit to the Sikhs violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalised Persons Act of 2000.

On Tuesday, the federal appellate court accepted the argument that the refusal "burdened" the free exercise of religion.

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