Monks Evicted from Pagoda in Long Beach Power Play

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Monks Evicted from Pagoda in Long Beach Power Play

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Monks’ eviction from Long Beach Cambodian Buddhist temple riles congregation
By Anh Do Staff Writer
Oct. 27, 2019
Long Beach, California, USA: Until a few weeks ago, the monks at the largest Cambodian Buddhist temple in Long Beach followed a daily worship rhythm dating back thousands of years.

Waking at dawn, they sank into meditation, chanting, sharing prayers and giving thanks for bowls of steaming rice porridge prepared by a stream of visiting volunteers.

In a routine based on the rising and setting of the sun, beneath the roof of the decaying Khemara Buddhikarama near the city’s industrial west side, the four religious leaders focused on ministering to their congregation with a spiritual message transmitted across four generations of immigrant families.

But as October draws to a close, these calm, soft-spoken men are struggling with a more pressing problem: eviction.

Since last summer, a majority of the temple’s board of directors had been threatening to force the monks out. A main issue in the dispute involves the fate of more than $300,000 in donations, some collected during special ceremonies, that the 19-member board has earmarked for building a second pagoda.

The monks have hundreds of supporters among the congregation, which numbers over 1,000. Several members say that they’ve demanded to see a blueprint of remodeling plans and the city permit for the project but have been stonewalled by the board.

Some worshipers — including longtime supporters who pooled tens of thousands of dollars of their own money to help buy the land and build the Khemara Buddhikarama decades ago — allege that some board members are consolidating power and not holding themselves accountable to the people.

The head monk, the Venerable Thet Sim, 45, said that board leaders would not allocate money for much-needed repairs at the temple, yet pressured him to push for more member donations to build the second pagoda. He refused, and he believes that as punishment the board sued to evict him and assistant monk Tith Bun, 32. A lawyer for the board has refuted those allegations.

The eviction case went to trial in September and the board members won. Sim and Bun are appealing the ruling, according to Tim Milner, a lawyer representing them.

Meanwhile, the board moved quickly after winning the case. Some board members, accompanied by officials from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, showed up at the temple on Oct. 15 to evacuate it, locking the doors and declaring that it would remain closed for at least 10 days for cleaning, according to witnesses.

While the temple remains shut, the monks are bunking down in old cars parked outside the temple gates, with loyal worshipers setting up tents to help guard them around the clock. Long Beach police have said that the temporary camp can remain as long as participants are peaceful and do not trespass.

“This is the type of case that should have been worked out privately,” Milner said. “This is a religion of peace. These are men of peace.”

Tracy Guerra, an attorney representing board members, responding to questions by email, noted that at the eviction trial the monks alleged that the board was pushing them out in retaliation for three things.

The monks, according to Guerra, alleged that board members were doing something illegal and/or fraudulent and had asked them to go along with it, which they refused to do. Guerra said the monks also claimed that the board wanted to evict them because the monks were requesting repairs to the temple, and the board didn’t want to do the repairs. Third, he said, the monks alleged that board members wanted to evict them because they were exercising their right to free speech, and the board didn’t like that.
Full story: https://www.latimes.com/california/stor ... ?_amp=true
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Re: Monks Evicted from Pagoda in Long Beach Power Play

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Wat Willow Buddhist temple tentatively reopens without monks as protests continue
Stephanie Rivera

Protests continued outside a West Long Beach Cambodian Buddhist temple Monday during a reopening celebration hosted by its embattled board of directors.

Nearly 20 monks from around Southern California joined members of the Khemara Buddhikarama Temple, known by many as Wat Willow, for an hours-long blessing ceremony celebrating the reopening of the temple.

The temple was closed for over 10 days for minor repairs, including new locks installed by the board of directors after a faction of the congregation trespassed in protest of the eviction of two monks, including the head monk the Venerable Thet Sim.

Members are at odds over the handling of the planned construction of a new temple on the site, with accusations of mismanagement of funds coming from both sides.

Supporters of Sim allege some of the board members have pocketed the money, leading some members to donate directly to the monk. In turn, some members of the board claim the same of Sim, but supporters said he used the money to fix immediate needs of the current temple.

Protesters held handmade signs and spoke through a handheld speaker microphone while the ceremony took place indoors Monday morning. Protestors criticized the board’s decision to evict the monks, which they believe is a violation of Buddhist practice.

While the board invited the temple’s two remaining monks back and to take part in the blessing ceremony, the monks say they will not return unless all four monks are allowed back in.

Vatthana Tran, one of the visiting monks from a San Bernardino temple, said he was not aware of the situation before he arrived for the blessing ceremony.

Through an interpreter, Tran said if a congregation has an issue with a monk, only fellow monks or the temple’s members can decide his fate. That is the practice at his temple.

He suggested bringing together area monks “to judge which monk is bad or not” in accordance with Buddha law.
https://lbpost.com/news/wat-willow-budd ... s-continue
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