Buddhists Serenity

From left, Lien Truong, Dung Compton, Tâm Đạo Thích and Hung Tran begin afternoon prayer at the Đạo Tâm Buddhist Temple on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. "When I became a monk, I had to let go of all family and belongings. This is my family now,” said Thich. 

The jury is still out on whether New Braunfels’ only Buddhist temple and its resident monk will get to remain on their Guadalupe County property. 

The four-day civil suit filed by Ashby Acres Subdivision neighbor Gerry Meyer came to a close around 11:30 a.m. Thursday, with the jury spending the rest of the day in deliberations. The jury broke at 5 p.m. and will reconvene today as jurors continue discussions on the Ashby Acres Subdivision deed restrictions. 

Meyer, a resident one of the five subdivision lots, is suing the temple and its monk, arguing they are in violation of the lot’s uses specified on the Ashby Acres Subdivision deed restrictions.

The deed restrictions limit lot use to residential use, with limited commercial and agricultural use. Meyer’s argument against the temple was that it breaks the deed restrictions by operating primarily as a commercial facility, rather than a residential lot.

Meyer’s attorney, Paul Fletcher, gave his closing remarks first on Thursday morning, imploring the jury to rule on several issues in Meyer’s favor. Fletcher opened his closing statements by thanking the jury for their time.

“The wheels of justice grind slowly — thank you all for your time this week,” Fletcher said. 

This case comes down to deed restrictions, Fletcher said. The Buddhists are using the land for mostly religious, and therefore for mostly commercial purposes, Fletcher argued.

“This doesn’t fit neatly into limited commercial use or limited agricultural use,” Fletcher said. “It’s a religious organization, which means it’s not primarily residential and it is a non-profit corporation, as indicated on their tax exemption application.”

The Buddhists tried to have the deed restrictions amended, Fletcher said, because they are aware it is a violation.

“The fact they can breakdown the amount of time a day the monk spends teaching is irrelevant,” Fletcher said. “They advertise — why do they do that? Because they’re a corporation.”

Michael Morris, who is defending the temple, gave his closing arguments following Fletcher and also started his closing arguments by thanking the jury.

“It’s been a long couple of days, thank you all for your patience,” Morris said. “Frankly, this case is an embarrassment. Our system shouldn’t be used by one person with money to torture a kind and peaceful group.”

The monk is at the temple at all times, living his life on the land there, Morris argued. 

“He resides there all the time. If you look at the full tax list it states on there it’s his residence,” Morris said. “By hiding that part on his presentation, Mr. Fletcher is just trying to use smoke and mirrors to distract from that.”

Before the new temple was built in 2017, Meyer told the Buddhists they could build whatever they want and they trusted him, Morris argued.

“They relied on him,” Morris said. “He told them, ‘You can build whatever you want.’ And then he switched — why? Because he didn’t get his way with the HOA.”

Should he win the case, Meyer is requesting the temple be removed and that the temple and monk Hun Van Nguyen pay him back for legal fees, which allot to over $122,000. 

“Does that sound reasonable and necessary to you?” Morris said. “I did the exact same case, for a quarter of that.”

In the temple’s response to the petition, Morris is seeking that the Buddhists be paid back for their legal fees — which are substantially less, at about $35,000 — should they win. 

The case is being overseen by District Judge Dwight Peschel in Seguin before a jury of Guadalupe County residents.

The temple is at 1410 W. Klein Road, New Braunfels, in Guadalupe County. For more information about the temple, visit www.daotambuddhisttemple.com.

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