State Supreme Court Upholds Results Of Buddhist Temple Election

By John Lyon, The Morning News, March 6, 2008

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (USA) -- A Sebastian County circuit judge did not violate the U.S. Constitution when he decided who could vote in an election at a Buddhist temple in Fort Smith, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The Supreme Court upheld the results of the temple's September 2006 election of its board of directors, rejecting arguments that Circuit Judge James Marschewski, now a U.S. magistrate, violated the constitutional separation of church and state in the case.

Marschewski ordered the temple to hold the election to resolve a lawsuit over who should control the temple. A group of temple members filed the suit in 2005, alleging that another faction within the temple had seized control in violation of the temple's 1989 bylaws.

A cross complaint by then-Abbot Phra Sagob Parisanto and 11 others alleged it was the plaintiffs who violated the bylaws and that the 1989 bylaws were not valid.

Marschewski ruled that the 1989 bylaws were valid, and he ordered the temple to elect a new board of directors. He appointed Fort Smith lawyer and former Justice Brad Jesson to oversee the election, and Sebastian County election officials agreed to let the temple rent county-owned voting machines for the election.

After the two sides in the case disagreed over who should be considered a temple member and therefore eligible to vote, Marschewski ordered both sides to submit a list of names and ruled that the people on both lists would be eligible.

The election resulted in the plaintiffs' candidates obtaining all seven positions on the board. Shortly after the election, the new board fired the abbot and nine monks and ejected 41 members.

Marschewski later denied a motion by the defendants to vacate the election results. The defendants appealed that ruling to the state Supreme Court, arguing that under the temple's bylaws, anyone who had attended and worshipped at the temple should have been considered a member, yet hundreds of people who met that definition were excluded from the list of eligible voters.

The defendants also argued that the question of who could vote was a religious question, not a secular one, so Marschewski erred in ruling on the matter.

In its opinion upholding the election results, the Supreme Court said courts can decide legal issues involving the ownership and control of church property, provided the decisions are based on legal, not religious, principals.

"It is apparent to this court that in determining that an election was required under the 1989 bylaws and in supervising that election when the temple members proved incapable of conducting it on their own, the circuit court and its special master did not delve into matters that were essentially religious in nature, but rather applied neutral principals of law concerning election procedures," Justice Robert Brown wrote in the Supreme Court's unanimous opinion.

The court also noted that people who were not on the list of eligible voters were allowed to cast provisional ballots. Even if those provisional ballots were included in the election results, the same seven people would win, so Marschewski's ruling was not prejudicial to the faction that lost the election, the court ruled.

The defendants further argued in their appeal that the temple was affiliated with the Dhammayut denomination of Buddhism, and the directors chosen in the 2006 election did not have authority to fire the Dhammayut abbot and monks and install an abbot or monks not affiliated with that denomination.

The Supreme Court disagreed.

"The 1989 bylaws make no mention of an intention of the temple to be Dhammayut, but they do express an intention to provide a place of worship for all Buddhists, regardless of race or national origin," Brown wrote.
We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: