Vote On New Leadership At Biloxi Buddhist Temple Creates Arguing And Finger-Pointing

By Krystal Allan, WLOX-TV, Dec 17, 2007

Biloxi, Mississippi (USA) -- On one side of the Van Duc Buddhist Temple in Biloxi, members came ready to vote on a new president and board of directors.  On the other, members want to delay that vote.  Those in favor of the delay sided with the president of the temple who made the decision to delay the vote for two weeks, because he says the situation inside became too chaotic.

"Two or three weeks is not that long, as we try to make the temple better and better," says Ngoc Em Le, Temple President.

But, members in favor of voting, including current board treasurer Christian Albert, says the president's decision to delay the vote was not for the purpose of bettering the temple.

"They want to delay the vote to get the monk out. If the election is today, then they lose that power, and the new board can dictate if the monk is staying or not. We have to get the election today in order to vote the monk to stay here."

Beside the power struggle, Albert along with other members of the temple, say the temple is growing and changing. They say current leadership isn't ready for change, including allowing Americans, not of Vietnamese decent to vote on who leads the church. American Jan Thorsen says that issue is one that hits her particularly hard.

"That hurt me very much because I do consider myself a member of this congregation. I also put my own dollars in the donation box. I've hauled out trash. I've worked in the gardens. I am here no less than once a week."

But, the president says he's open to the idea of allowing everyone's voice to be heard if the Vietnamese congregation wants it.

"I hope that in the future we will think that it's a good idea for everyone to join together for all."

On this day, coming together as a united congregation would not be the case. The president walked out along with some members.

Despite the president leaving, in the end, elections were still held. Members who stayed say they came ready to vote, and they were not ready to leave until they did just that.

The president of the temple says since he decided to delay the vote, today's vote would not count. Members who voted, however, say their vote is legitimate because the president sent out notices saying the vote would be today.

Additionally, they say with the president's term is expiring this month, and they need a new leader. Some of the members say this issue could become a legal one.