Dispute between shrine, WPHO heads to trial

FULTONVILLE – A dispute between the Auriesville Shrine and the World Peace and Health Organization will go to trial in November.

The WPHO group claims the shrine is violating the group’s rights by barricading a road leading to the group’s Buddha Temple at the shrine.

County Court Judge Felix Catena this month scheduled a pre-trial calendar and a trial date for November.

The dispute stems from an incident that started in April, when Shrine employees created a barricade of cut logs at the end of the shrine road. This blocked the road leading to the Western Supreme Buddha Temple, also known as the Western Shrine. The Buddha Temple is located in the Jesuit retreat house, which the Buddhist group purchased from the shrine in 2006. The World Peace and Health Organization’s offices are at the temple.

When the Buddhist group purchased the Jesuit retreat house, the agreement required the group to build its own access road to the temple by 2007. The group built the access road, Friendship Road, in 2009.

After the new road was built, the WPHO thought the old road would continue to provide access to the temple, and understanding the shrine officials didn’t share.

After the barricade was constructed, a complaint was filed in May against the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs, its director, the Rev. George Belgarde, and Larry Steiger, the shrine’s maintenance worker, by Yik Cheng of the Western Supreme Buddha Temple.

The temple’s staff and visitors were forced to use the unfinished Friendship Road after they had been using both roads to access the temple for several years. Cheng filed the lawsuit in Montgomery County Court on May 15, demanding that the road barricade be removed.

Cheng’s suit argues that Belgarde’s roadblock inconveniences the temple’s staff, complicates mail delivery and emergency response and affects the number of visitors. None of Cheng’s court papers mention the sales agreement, but they argue the roadblock infringes upon the group’s constitutional rights.

The lawsuit asks for an apology from the shrine and reimbursement of legal fees.

Calls to the WPHO and Belgarde were not returned on Wednesday.

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