Buddhist Temple Dispute May be Resolved by Sebastian County Election Commission

August 28, 2006

Source: Times Record


On August 28, 2006 the Times Record reported, "The Sebastian County Election Commission is expected to decide today whether to conduct an election for a Fort Smith Buddhist temple whose members have been battling each other in court for more than a year. Election Coordinator Jerry Huff said the commission will consider a request to conduct an election of temple officers at Wat Buddha Samakitham, 4625 Armour St. The court-ordered election is scheduled for Sept. 10. If the Election Commission does conduct the election, the temple will pay all costs, Huff said. The question of who should control the temple has been the subject of a legal battle since June 2005, when a group of temple members filed a civil suit in Sebastian County Circuit Court against the temple’s abbot, Phra Sangob Parisanto, and several other temple members. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were trying to take control of the temple from the duly-elected board of directors, in violation of bylaws that had been in effect since 1989. Parisanto and 11 other people filed a cross complaint that accused the plaintiffs of violating temple bylaws that were passed in 1992, superseding the 1989 bylaws. In August 2005, Circuit Judge James Marschewski placed First National Bank in temporary charge of the temple’s bank accounts. In May, Marschewski ruled that the 1989 bylaws were the only valid bylaws and ordered that an election be held to choose a new board of directors, which would then take control of the temple’s accounts. Tensions did not ease after the judge’s ruling. On June 2, Fort Smith police were called to the temple after a heated argument arose over whether visiting monks who did not belong to the Dhammayut denomination of Buddhism — the denomination of the resident monks — should be given quarters at the temple."