Church appeal goes to Supreme Court

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A GROUP that saw a bid to build a place of worship on green wedge land in Carrum Downs dashed by VCAT on religious grounds is appealing to the Supreme Court of Victoria to press ahead with its plan.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruled in February that the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) is not a recognised religion for the purposes of being allowed to build a church on green wedge land (“Religion ruling ‘a win for the wedge’”, The Times 27/2/17).

A Supreme Court appeal against the VCAT decision is listed to be heard on Friday 31 March.

Defenders of the South East Green Wedge spokesman Barry Ross is listed as a respondent despite not raising religious reasons for the RSSB not being granted the planning permit.

The group’s appeal to maintain the rural character of the area 26.3 hectares of green wedge land between EastLink and Frankston-Dandenong Rd and Boundary Rd near an existing Hindu temple was rejected by VCAT.

VCAT panel member Michael Deidun instead ruled a proposal to build a place of worship for RSSB devotees “are not related to the practice or following of a religion”.

“I was informed during the course of the hearing that members of RSSB Australia Pty Ltd maintain their existing religious beliefs, whether they be Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or another religion,” he said in the ruling.

Mr Ross said he is seeking legal advice about the Supreme Court hearing.

Frankston Council has been listed as a second respondent despite councillors voting to approve the development at a public council meeting in July last year.

RSSB chairman Michael Cooke confirmed the organisation has sought leave to appeal against the VCAT decision.

The group is a self-proclaimed “philosophical organisation based on the spiritual teachings of all religions and dedicated to a process of inner development under the guidance of a spiritual teacher”.

RSSB’s “spiritual leader” is Baba Gurinder Singh who lives in northern India.

RSSB has been granted non-profit religious institution status by the Australian Taxation Office.

Frankston Council has been contacted for comment about the Supreme Court hearing.

An attempt by RSSB to build the place of worship and dwellings to house devotees in Chirnside Park was rejected by Yarra Ranges Council in late 2014.

First published in the Frankston Times – 27 March 2017

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