The high priest of an Arkansas temple said that the city of Beebe ordered him to close after finding out that his religion was pagan, not Christian.
High Priest Bertram Dahl told KARK that Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson had initially supported his plans to open a Seekers temple and spiritual good shop in the garage behind his home.
“When they knew we were going to open a church, it wasn’t an issue,” he explained. “We explained to [the mayor] the house had a building that we could open the church in, and he had no problem.”
But Dahl said that the city’s attitude changed after learning that members of the temple were pagan.
“We were basically given a cease and desist you know — shut down. We hadn’t even unpacked. We aren’t even open — how are we getting this,” Dahl asked.
Although he had not even applied for permits yet, Mayor Robertson let it be known that he thought that no conditional or special use permits should be given to Dahl. That same day, the city’s code officer sent a letter ordering Dahl to cease and desist.
City Attorney Barrett Rogers insisted to KARK that Dahl could not be allowed to open the temple because his residential property was not “zoned commercial, which is what’s required for a place of worship or a retail business.”
Dahl, however, pointed out that properties that were zoned R-2 were allowed to have places of worship and private nonprofits, according to the city’s code.
He said that he had asked the mayor’s office for permit applications, even though he was told it would never be approved.
“I haven’t seen any of that [permit application] paperwork. My understanding is he has not asked to be given the paperwork,” Rogers said. “Had he asked for the paperwork it would have been provided.”
When KARK asked Mayor Robertson about the paperwork, he said that “there was no permit he could apply for.” Robertson declined to be interviewed on camera.
Dahl also appealed to his alderman for assistance, but the alderman told KARK that Dahl’s “God isn’t my God.”
The station noted that other homes in the neighborhood were operating businesses at home.
Watch the video below from KARK, broadcast June 18, 2104.