Monday, August 22, 2011

Chicago temple gets some unwelcomed attention

Well drat, I missed an opportunity this weekend to join a group of protesters rallying outside of a Chicago-area Theravada temple, bringing attention to allegations that a monk at the temple had sexually assault a girl there. I only found out about it via Barbara O’Brien’s blog the day after the demonstration. Had I known about this event, I would certainly have gone.

There was also a related demonstration in Long Beach, Calif. I love the quote from the Orange County Chapter of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which organized the two demonstrations: “It’s a different religion, but it’s the same story.”

I wrote about this situation not too long ago, and my conclusion then remains the same: There needs to be some type of oversight of these temples, regardless of whether they be Theravada, Zen, Tibetan – whatever. But the reality of the situation remains true as well, because these organizations do have members, and these members are the ones who should be raising hell about this.

As mentioned in my earlier post, I had contacted some monks I know for their thoughts. Two replied to my queries with the same message: While the monk’s action is deplorable, these “ethnically oriented” temples are not interested in outside pressure to police monks and we “outsiders” should just leave them alone and let them figure out how to deal with this on their own.

Now this is where my reaction could easily be taken out of context to portray me as a reactionary anti-immigration xenophobe, because to that notion of just “let them deal with it themselves” I say a loud and forceful, “Fuck that!”

We are in America, not Thailand or Cambodia, or anywhere else where the locals might sheepishly avoid confrontation with their religious leaders. And while I have no problem with immigrants bringing with them their homeland culture to add richness and diversity to our American culture, when that culture is one of silence and fear, then fuck that. You can send that attitude back on the boat.

Regardless of what this monk told his Sangha, regardless of what the Vinaya says about this, there is the Third Precept, which in numerous places throughout the Tipitika identifies inappropriate sexual contact with a child as constituting sexual misconduct.

This monk doesn’t need to go back to Thailand. He needs to go to jail.

BTW, the photo with this post is from Bali and has nothing to do with the temple in Chicago. It's just a nice photo of some cute boys with slingshots. Yes, they had slingshots. Hunting for rats maybe?


  1. Hi there, I know I just sent a message on your last blog post telling you I love your blog (I still do), but I'm troubled by your line:

    "And while I have no problem with immigrants bringing with them their homeland culture to add richness and diversity to our American culture, when that culture is one of silence and fear, then fuck that. You can send that attitude back on the boat."

    As someone who is of Asian immigrant background (to Australia, rather than to the USA), but socialised into "Western" democratic principles, I definitely understand the frustration around the silence about sexual violence in certain ethnically-defined spaces, I think it is important to remember that this silence around abuse is:
    1. Not unique to immigrant/Asian communities
    2. Not easily terminable by telling people to send their attitudes "back on the boat"

    I do admire, as a dedicated Buddhist, your unwavering stance on the problem of sexual abuse within sanghas, even at the 'risk,' from this exposure, of temporarily diminishing the integrity of Buddhist institutionalism (I see this as a courageous act of accountability). I think it is right to confront the shadows of religious/ethnic/institutional parochialism that denies or sweeps abuse away under the rug.

    While I do not think that you are, in general, xenophobic or anti-immigrant (clearly you have celebrated the specific richness of Buddhism, historically and contemporarily brought into the USA by immigrants), I think it was careless to denounce the problems of acculturation with anti-immigrant rhetoric.

  2. @shinenigan, thank you for calling me out on this. I admit I was flippant and careless with my words as I was writing with an agitated heart, and as a result, I strapped myself to an ox cart to drag my woes about.

    You are correct that this silence I was castigating is not unique to Asian immigrant communities. In fact, such silence remains an issue within current American culture. It is ironic, perhaps, that the post immediately prior to this one was about how anger remains an issue for me.

    I should have taken more time to carefully think through how I wished to express myself. Thank you for keeping me honest :)

  3. Hi Richard,

    Thank you for considering my comment, and for responding!

    I suppose both of us are just engaging in the difficult exercise of keeping ourselves and communities honest. I was, in a sense, following your example. :)

    Please keep writing!