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Threat of Litigation Causes California Officials to Renege Ruling Against Universal Life Church Minister

November 6th, 2012

Universal Life Church minister closer to receiving land use permit for his Chico, Calif. temple

Robert Seals, a Universal Life Church minister and owner of the Chico Goddess Temple, has forced the Butte County Board of Supervisors to renege their 3-2 ruling that the religious center should not be allowed to host weddings, retreats, concerts, and other large gatherings by threatening them with civil rights litigation.

On Oct. 23, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to send the decision concerning granting a land use permit to the temple back to the Butte County Planning Commission. The Planning Commission barred Seals from using his property to hold the aforementioned events at the Northern California in April 2012.

No hearing date has been set by the Planning Commission as of yet.

Chico Goddess Temple land use permit denied in July

Robert Seals: Universal Life Church minister and founder of the Chico Goddess Temple

Universal Life Church minister and Klean Kanteen inventor Robert Seals is facing community pushback against the land use at his place of worship, the Chico Goddess Temple.

The Butte County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to deny a use permit to the Chico Goddess Temple on July 31, 2012, effectively closing the worship center.

The Board of Supervisor’s decision to close the temple was influenced by noise complaints made by the temple’s neighbors. Several neighbors complained that the events frequently held at the temple, which can bring as many as 500 people onto its grounds, can generate an “unbearable” level of noise. The board also heard arguments that the temple’s buildings are not up to code and that it does not have the requisite land use permits required to hold such large gatherings.

One of the neighbors even claimed that Seals and temple employees intimidated and lied to her in an attempt to prevent her from testifying against them.

Board members opposed to granting the Chico Goddess Temple a land use permit felt strongly about their decision.

“It would be ludicrous to give this outfit permission to do what they want to do,” one said, “in addition to the fact that they’re depriving their neighbors of their quiet enjoyment of their own property in a residential neighborhood.”

The only board member who actually visited the Chico Goddess Temple, Maureen Kirk, was one of the two who voted to give it a limited land use permit, provided that the temple bring everything up to code, obtain the necessary permits, and dampen noise emitted from the property.

“I’m a firm believer in freedom of religion, and I don’t want to put the board in a situation where we are seen to shut down somebody’s place of worship,” Kirk said.

About the Chico Goddess Temple

ULC minister starts a church

Holistic, nature-inspired spiritual practices are the ones that can be found at the Chico Goddess Temple.

Robert Seals purchased the 10 acres of land that the Chico Goddess Temple is now situated on in 1982 and has spent the last three decades adding buildings, landscaping, and other man-made structures to the property. The temple now consists of a 1,600 square foot meeting hall and worship area, two residences, a sound therapy room, a large pond, a yoga platform, an in-ground pool, and teepees.

These improvements were financed thanks to Seals’ small fortune he earned from inventing the Klean Kanteen, the world’s first commercially-marketed stainless steel water bottle, and an all-purpose bike repair tool. Seals’ background in metalworking inspired these creations and is also the reason why the temple grounds are dotted with large metal works of art; these include a number of large bird motifs, a “whimsical” lizard, and a giant goddess statue whose legs straddle the path leading to the temple’s entrance.

Despite these eccentric touches, the Chico Goddess Temple is fundamentally a peaceful sanctuary designed to help people find solace and comfort. The temple’s original mission statement claims that it is meant to “…provide non-denominational environments to awaken and inspire earth-based spirituality, self nourishment, care for the commons and empowerment of women.” The temple has hosted concerts, a children’s camp, holistic healing and addiction relief programs, homeless shelters, and weddings, among other events, and is sometimes used as a meeting place for nature walks that Seals leads through the canyons near its grounds.

Seals cites his 1968 ordination through the Universal Life Church as the reason behind why he sought to create such a unique retreat and center of worship. His earth-based ideology and interest in Eastern and Native American spirituality was the inspiration behind the Chico Goddess Temple’s focus on “the Godliness of nature” and the reason why he was attracted to the non-denominational Universal Life Church.

One Comment

  1. Kristen Swain says:

    Would love to be able to email Robert Seals about collaborating with a group of young environmental advocates. If you could provide me an email address in which he can be reached, I would appreciate it. Thank you, Kristen

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