A Change of Guard

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Saturday, 22 December 2007

Oakland's Cambodian temple back to local control

Khmerization's comment: This kind of internal wrangling in the Buddhist temples happened everywhere. In Australia, especially in Adelaide, they fought each other until death. At the end the temple has to be sold in order to get the money to pay the lawyers. This is Khmer mores- fighting because of ego and at the end they lost everything.
OAKLAND — A California Superior Court ruled Tuesday that the Oakland Cambodian Buddhist Society Temple should never have merged with a corporate, centralized temple in Massachusetts.
"Finally, justice prevailed and we got our temple back," said Christina Fam, daughter-in-law of the temple's now-deceased abbot.
The temple's board of directors conducted a membership vote in June 2004 leading to the merger, but it never stated that the Massachusetts-based International Community Khmer Buddhist Monks Center would essentially take over the Oakland temple, according to the judge's ruling.
The abbot, Sam Son and three monks were locked out of their own temple in 2004. They started a new one — the Oakland Cambodian Buddhist Temple — across the street in the same East Oakland neighborhood, followed by many of their supporters.
"The abbot was told he could no longer be the abbot and he couldn't perform any ceremonies or do anything," Fam said about the temple coup. "This was to the abbot's surprise and the members' surprise."
Several board members allegedly had grudges against some of the elder monks and the abbot. They accused the monks of engaging in inappropriate activities, such as viewing pornography on the Internet and playing cards, allegations that Fam says were false, but were used as an excuse to bring on the merger.
The abbot, Son, passed away July 2005 in the midst of the internal disputes.
"Unfortunately, the abbot couldn't handle the stressful situation," Fam said in tears on the phone Thursday. "He was already frail and had a heart condition. He was in emotional distress."
The original temple was founded in 1983 by Son and incorporated as a nonprofit in 1986. Before the temple was transferred out of local control, it had a membership of 600 and was central to the Cambodian community in Oakland, many who are refugees.
The temple offered language and citizenship classes and workshops on immigration issues and cultural events, according to the plaintiff's lawyer, David Sternfeld.
"We're hoping to bring the temple back into the community and provide the services it had in the past," he said.
G. Robert Woodfin, lawyer to the defendants, said he is still reviewing the decision and declined to comment.

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