A disabled Arkansas veteran seeking to open a pagan temple with his wife in the town of Beebe said he has been denied permits and harassed by both city officials and neighbors.
Bertram Dahl, the high priest of the intended temple, said Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson initially supported his plans to open a place of worship, but changed his tune when he later found out it was Pagan, not Christian.
"We explained to him [the mayor] the house had a building that we could open the church in, and he had no problem," Dahl told KARK Arkansas
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In a blog post on his website, SeekersTemple.com
, Dahl wrote that he then spoke with the town's parks manager about renting a space in the park. He said the manager was cooperative, and explained that the Boy Scouts rent the entire park out for $600. Because Dahl would only need a fraction of the park, he said the price would be even lower. Dahl encouraged the manager to visit his temple's website to check out some of the items they would be selling at the celebration.
After visiting the site, the manager likely realized the space would be used to celebrate the 12th annual Arkansas Pagan Pride, and Dahl said he insisted on $600 for one pavilion, and forbid sales of any kind. Dahl then declined.
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, Dahl and his wife subsequently received a letter declining a permit to open the temple – even though they hadn't applied yet.
"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?" he said.
After the mayor declined to comment, City Attorney Barrett Rogers told reporters investigating the matter that the property wasn't zoned for commercial, "which is what's required for a place of worship or a retail business." After looking through the city's zoning laws, however, reporters said it appears they are zoned for a place of worship, but do need a permit.
Dahl said he eventually went to the mayor's office on March 14, and an employee there refused to even give Dahl the application to apply for the permit after speaking on the phone with the mayor.
During the permit flap, Dahl also wrote on his blog that the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church across the street from his house installed a revolving light that flashed into his house every 5 seconds, disturbing his children. He visited the church, and asked if they could take the light down. They refused.
A week later, on May 28, Dahl said two officers arrested for Disorderly Conduct and Harassing Communications. He said one of the two men who filed the complaint that led to his arrest he had never even met. Dahl was eventually released after paying $320 and was given a plea date of July 9.
Reporters eventually reached out to the city alderman, who only wanted to make one comment for the record: "That man's god isn't my god."
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