Letter to the Members

  (writer's note: the following are excerpts and annotations from the original letter)

Dear SGI members,

I want to thank you for all the joys and sufferings we've been through together. I would like you to know that I will never betray our friendships that we made over the years. I'm standing up now to honor them. Please share my letter with the members.

When I started writing this letter right after my dismissal, I had originally intended it for my own chapter members. However after numerous requests from members throughout the country to know the details of the inequities I have experienced, I decided to make it available to everyone, because the same thing could happen anywhere.

I want to wish you and your families the most happy holidays and a wonderful New Year as we enter the new millennium. 

All the best,

Phil Orenstein

November 18, 1999

Letter to the members,

On September 20 1999 I was dismissed from my position as Nassau MD Chapter Chief. This letter serves as the primary vehicle to bring the truth out in the open, now that I've been dismissed. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant" as the saying goes. This letter shines the sunlight of truth on events that have transpired in Nassau Chapter in the past year and a half. Deception works, at least for a while, and the truth is one thing that many don't want to face. The truth hurts and this letter will hurt. But only the sunlight of truth will purify our organization. Therefore this is something that all Long Island members should take the time to read. 

Hopefully this will awaken the members to their mission in protecting this great organization against evils from within. President Ikeda said "If our leaders stop fighting against evil and injustice, merely putting on a great act of giving guidance, occupying themselves solely with protecting their own interests, it is a sign that their faith is bankrupt". He also said "All that a human being should fear is how justice will judge you....It is deplorable if youth stand by and condone the behavior of those who arrogantly hold their fellow citizens in contempt, who have no scruples in twisting and misrepresenting historical facts - who are authoritarian to the very core. It is up to you, the youth division members, the SGI youth, to change the way things are."

Let justice judge my own actions and the facts presented herewith, and the actions of those who have twisted and misrepresented the facts. I was dismissed because I stood up for justice and spoke out for change. My hope is that my writing reaches even one person who will also have no fear about standing up to correct the current injustices to change the way things are and usher in an organization based on religious democracy as envisioned by Makiguchi and President Ikeda for the new millennium.

I have practiced without stop for 30 years always protecting the organization and for almost 10 years I have been the Nassau Chapter leader and I have given my all to the members. I have made it my principal determination to develop the youth division. When we found youth with great potential, they seemed to rise quickly and then disappear for one reason or another. Most leaders that we asked for help were rarely available. Some leaders were so busy with their personal lives that they seldom had time for the members or even to attend activities regularly. I've had to run after many leaders for years imploring them to communicate, to take care of members, to keep their promises etc. But I still worked tirelessly with everyone holding onto the hope that we would win in the end. I understood their situations with family, careers, and busy schedules. But what I could not understand was their negligence when they did have free time. 

One example was a 20 year old young woman who started practicing with a passionate spirit and had only a MD to encourage and support her as her sole friend in faith. In an effort to get her connected with her YWD peers he introduced her to 3 YWD leaders on separate occasions. They never visited or even called her. It's a crime that a young person with a wonderful potential was neglected. Eventually she stopped practicing and disappeared. Similar scenarios such as this one have occurred all too often. It is apparent that these leaders who did have time were negligent and irresponsible. They neglected their foremost task, which is to encourage and raise capable people. Every time, over the past 10 years, when I brought these and similar issues up I was yelled at and shut up, I was told not to rock the boat, not to judge others, it will be taken care of by my seniors in faith.

I am giving some background to an incident which happened to one of our YWD members last year. This report is far beyond being merely a complaint about the individuals named in this incident. It is an example of how sincere members will continue to suffer and leave this organization if the present top-down system, which allows unjust behavior from leaders to continue unchecked, is not reformed. I have taken a stand to speak out for change for the past year and even though I am the same person I always was, I have been branded as a parasite, a slanderer, a negative member, forming a "separate organization", accused of viciously attacking members and leaders. Ad hominem rumors and lies have been spread. I have been threatened with dismissal and now finally dismissed. Now I have been ostracized by many of the people whom I've worked with and been close to for the past 10, 20 or 30 years, in which I have been calling, visiting and organizing activities on a non-stop daily basis. Yet I am not sorry, I have no regrets. I am proud, and I wear my dismissal as a badge of honor! Our organization no longer reflects the spirit and noble ideals of the 3 presidents when it's currently being run like a regal corporation where people are hired and fired at will, breaking the rules and regulations of the by-laws of the SGI and violating the fundamental rights of the people who spoke out to protect the members. Five other pure hearted members were likewise dismissed recently for speaking out for change! Others were threatened with dismissal and banned from meetings.

In an effort to raise the youth division we racked our brains to come up with new ideas. One idea we started in 1998 were monthly chapter level shakubuku meetings which were run by the youth division members with the full support of the men and women. These meetings were exciting and the youth participated enthusiastically. We started to see an atmosphere of joy and growth. One YWD, Melvina Hitchens took an active role and her practice started rejuvenating. She became a whirlwind of energy and support in her district. She started doing shakubuku and encouraging others. We had our eyes on her as our future youth division leader. When her Region YWD leader, Sharon Redman, who hadn't talked to her in years, saw that she was standing up, she asked her to participate in Byakuren and other YWD activities in the city. However, Melvina felt her primary responsibilities lay on Long Island with her District because, as she was informed, the mission of the youth division was to support and focus on the Districts in the guidelines from General Director Zaitsu. In any case it was impossible for her to travel into Manhattan due to her busy schedule. Her District leader agreed with her to give top priority to her home District and participate in city activities when she had extra time because that was common sense. This angered Sharon. Her resentment was reflected in subsequent communications by phone and fax as reported to us by Melvina.

Soon after, Nassau Chapter held a wonderful event celebrating the "Day of NY" around the end of June, 1998 at Kennedy Park in Hempstead. It was there that I heard some very alarming news. Daphne Hazel (WD Vice Chapter Chief) and Richard Tinsley (Freeport District Chf.) told me briefly that Melvina who had been looking forward to going to FNCC, had decided not to go and was too discouraged to continue to participate in activities altogether. Daphne and Richard were both very angry and said that incidents like this have happened too many times before and their patience had run out. They could hardly describe it in words so they asked me to speak to Melvina directly to find out what had happened to her. Later when I called Melvina she was devastated by the way Sharon Redman had treated her. She said "I never thought that a woman in her position and stature would not only discourage me, but also demean me, as well as try to crush my spirit with her unkind words in response to my plans to attend the meeting at FNCC. I immediately started making plans not to attend". 

Melvina reported to us the entire series of conversations in detail starting from when she first learned from her friend Stacey that there were extra openings for the upcoming YWD conference at FNCC. She was very excited to go and spoke a couple of times to Sharon Redman, who was also very happy that she could go, and made arrangements for the trip and to turn in her money. Sharon forget to pick up her check and then forgot to fax her the itinerary. Melvina then dropped off the check herself at Sharon's house. After this, the following phone conversation with Sharon transpired as reported by Melvina: "During this conversation she started telling me that I needed to call this woman named Susan, because "her ass is on the line for inviting me." That Susan didn't know anything about me nor had she ever heard of me. And that this would cause problems for Sharon. Sharon had also mentioned that there was some sort of problem with Lorena and I and she needed to sit down with the two of us. That night I went home and called Susan. She wasn't home, I left a message." 

About a week later she spoke to Sharon again: "When I spoke to Sharon, she told me that she was in so much trouble for scheduling me to go to FNCC and that I really needed to call Susan, because again, Susan does not know me and that is a problem. She also said that Susan felt that she has been playing phone tag with me. I told Sharon that I never heard of Susan either and that I have been in NY since February. I also told her that I attend many activity with leaders such as Richard, Phil, Daphne and no one ever told me there was a new leader for YWD. Sharon at this point seemed to be getting angry. When she said "if I have been around Phil, Daphne and Richard it is their responsibility to get me introduced to Susan", and she said these kind of things confuse the whole District. At this point Sharon asked me am I angry at Lorena, because I need to reach out to my YWD leaders. She gave me Lorena's work and home # and told me to call Lorena. I explain to Sharon that I never had a problem with Lorena and in fact I haven't seen or spoken to Lorrena for a whole year. I did mention that the time when Lorena was spending time with Nassau members, that all of a sudden she started teaching Spanish members slow Gongyo and having meetings with them, that we Nassau members had not heard from Lorena for months. I again said that I was not even angry at Lorena for this because I have a stand alone spirit and maybe these members needed her more than we did. At this point Sharon said to me "Let me back you up for a minute Melvina, Lorena must have had contact with Stacey because who told Stacey about FNCC?" Once again Sharon started stressing the point again that in order to make things more comfortable for me at FNCC I needed to contact my YWD leaders. Because she is in trouble for making the decision on her own to invite me when they made a pact to not let anyone go without a team decision. At this point I said to Sharon "well Sharon, if you guys had made a pact to invite people as a team, why did you invite me on your own?" She then said "Melvina, I am going to tell you right now, if I had made the decision with them you would not be going because they would have invited a YWD from Brooklyn and the next time she will make the decision with them. At that point I said okay Sharon, I will call Lorena and Susan. At that point we said our good-byes and hung up."

After this conversation Sharon called back to apologize. But this rang hollow to Melvina, as if she was pressured into doing it. After she hung up with Sharon she decided not to go to FNCC. Since Melvina had been going through these scenarios too many times in the past with these leaders, she felt that her apology to her now was meaningless and was used to cover up her actions. This was the last straw. She knew from the past that if she complained, the leaders would rally around to protect Sharon and place the blame on her and accuse her of lying. She was outraged and was considering discontinuing her faith activities altogether. 

A couple of days after the event, Daphne contacted Sharon to discuss this incident and asked her to come and meet with Melvina, Richard, Phil and herself to resolve this issue and other concerns regarding the lack of support for the YWD in general. Sharon agreed to a meeting and confirmed a date and time. Long Island YWD leaders Lorena Maldonado and Susie Corwin were planning to attend as well. During this conversation Sharon expressed regret about how she acted and asked Daphne not to let anyone else know about it. Daphne said that she can't control who knows about it because Melvina had already reported the incident to several leaders.

We continued to encourage Melvina to go to FNCC in spite of how discouraged she was. She felt reassured that we were planning to deal with this issue through a face to face dialogue session where she and Sharon would be able to sit down together and resolve it. It meant a lot to her that we were trying to hold leaders accountable for their actions and taking a stand against this type of behavior in our organization. Melvina said at a later date, "It was only through the encouragement, kindness, and persistence of Daphne Hazel, Richard Tinsley and Phil Orenstein that I persisted to go to this meeting. I not only needed to attend the meeting spiritually, but knew that my spirit would be renewed and my life would be changed. This is exactly what happened! I found peace, direction and focus in my prayer direction. Since then I have relocated and I diligently continue with my prayer, practice and my need to rejuvenate my spirit. My renewal of spirit since that meeting has been recognized by many senior leaders and youth divisions in Virginia. It has helped me in every area of my life. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Daphne, Richard and Phil for their persistence and encouragement to attend that particular meeting. From my understanding, please know that Sharon has had numerous confrontations with other YWD members, which should be addressed." She thanked us for standing up for her, because if we didn't, the truth may never have come out.

We decided to address this issue at the next Area planning board meeting. We brought it up at the end of the meeting. After all the regular business, we mentioned this incident, the report that we got from Melvina and stated that we are disturbed by such irresponsible actions displayed by a top leader in our organization. We also spoke about the need to deal with many past and present issues which have been disregarded and "swept under the rug". Instead of real discussion of problems and issues concerning the members at planning meetings, there has always been a carefree atmosphere of "superficial fluff" as one members put it, to paint a rosy picture and cover up difficult issues. We objected to this tendency. Daphne said "there's an elephant in the living room - we must first remove the elephant before we talk about anything else". But they still tried to brush it off and avoid the issue. When I pointed out Sharon's "despicable behavior", my area leader became noticeably upset and said "who are you to judge". I replied that's it's my right to judge when it concerns a member who has almost stopped practicing. I indicated that this resembles the oppressive behavior of the priesthood and is particularly obvious now in light of the Nikken Issue. She said that I have no right to judge who's right and who's wrong without first hearing both sides. Of course, it's correct to say that we must hear both sides, but for years whenever we brought up these incidents and issues they were always trivialized. That's exactly what we were so outraged about, that these YWD weren't taken care of for years and now leaders who are out of touch are passing judgments on their condition. Frankly my area leader was too busy with her own career at that time to be truly involved with what was happening. We knew Melvina and her condition intimately from close contact with her at many recent activities. What happened to Melvina was bound to occur because of years of neglect and leaders being out of touch. It happened before and in every case the leaders were protected and the members suffered. For us the buck stopped here. In any case, we told her that we were going to meet and have a dialogue with Sharon and hear her side. But I didn't have a chance to mention it at that point in our conversation. My area leader also said that it's mistaken to compare SGI leaders with the priests. My response was that we weren't comparing, but this is the same type of behavior we're fighting against in the priesthood. She said furthermore, that there have been problems in the past with Melvina and she has been known to lie, implying that she may be lying now and full of hostility toward Sharon. This enraged us because now she was making judgments herself and immediately protecting Sharon. What was so outrageous was that Melvina was about to stop practicing but not one word of concern was mentioned by my are leader or any other leader about how Melvina was doing. 

As the date of the meeting with Sharon approached, Daphne made some calls to confirm all the participants. When she called Sharon, she just got her answering machine and Sharon never returned her call. Then Richard and I tried calling Sharon and left messages for her, but she never returned our calls either. The night of the meeting Sharon never showed up, and neither did the other YWD leaders. Daphne was informed by our are leader earlier that day that Sharon would not be attending the meeting and she didn't feel it was necessary for her to come. Upon hearing the news that Sharon was not coming, the other YWD leaders changed their plans and didn't show either. Our attempt to have dialogue was squashed by our area leader.

Soon after that, I spoke to my are leader on the phone, I was shocked at her tone and how she changed the whole story around. She maintained that Sharon did nothing wrong and that she was just trying to protect Melvina. She said that there were not enough seats and it came down to a choice between several other participants and that Sharon was trying her best to get Melvina in. We are making a big issue out of nothing. I told her that what she was saying was ridiculous and besides that Sharon admitted that she was wrong. It was untrue that there were not enough seats. Why did my WD area leader call me after the incident occurred and say that they were looking for YWD who were available to go to the FNCC conference and asked if there were any YWD in my Chapter who wanted to go? This was despicable that she should deny the truth.

Many times in the past my right and ability to judge was challenged by my leaders when I spoke out about serious concerns. Problems were trivialized by indifferent attitudes which conveyed the perspective that there's no right or wrong. I'm writing this for the benefit of others who may find themselves humiliated in the same manner. Grown men and women in our organization have been disgraced this way by arrogant leaders and treated like dependent children who can't judge for themselves right from wrong. This attitude has caused many to leave the organization. No one should let themselves become a victim of such abuse. President Ikeda says: "Also in the organization for kosen-rufu, we have to clearly say what must be said. The purpose of Buddhism is not to produce dupes who blindly follow their leader. It is to produce people of wisdom who can judge right and wrong on their own in the clear mirror of Buddhism." Obviously, its wrong to judge people prejudicially based on their race, life style or based on gossip or false rumors. But judgments based on a person's character and actions are important and necessary. We must make judgments about things that matter in order to live correctly and spread the teachings and anyone who threatens our ability for sound judgment is a negative influence and should be removed from our life. Anyone who discourages someone from judging and instead continually promotes forgiveness is protecting themselves and suppressing a persons' basic rights. This is used to protect one's status and authority and it makes them omnipotent. Of course no one wants their behavior to be judged and most people want to be forgiven even when they've committed wrong so that they can save face. But to continuously relax judgment and issue forgiveness creates a lax, irresponsible atmosphere where "anything goes" which gives license to corruption. This is equivalent to making a pact of mutual corruption where people avert their gaze from wrongdoing to grant behavioral exemptions to others so they themselves will be granted exemptions in turn. In other words," forgive her, she's only human" is declared so that they can protect themselves! President Ikeda has said that of course we as human beings sometimes make mistakes, but for people in responsible positions to continually use this as an excuse to get away with irresponsible actions, this is despicable. Forgiveness has its place, but nowadays it is currently fashionable in popular culture assimilated from Christian doctrine, where a "good" person should exhibit God-like forgiveness as the often quoted Biblical passages reveal: "Judge not, lest you be judged" and "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone". Some people in leadership positions in our organization have evidently not yet overcome their shackles which hold them to such pre-Buddhist influences that say we ought not judge or "cast stones". Buddhist mercy, which is to point out others' errors which can lead them to ruin, is quite different from Christian love or God-like forgiveness. The organization which spreads the true teaching must uphold the highest standards of behavior because the people judge the teaching by observing the actions of the members and leaders! Also to create a false image of virtue and tolerance by claiming that there's no right and no wrong, is an apathetic attitude distilled from a hodgepodge of pop culture pessimism, new age religious drivel and drug induced stupors. The distinction between good and evil are obscured and there are no universal truths or moral absolutes in this fantasy land where judgment is suspended and morality is damned. To the followers of Transcendental Meditation, Hare Krishna and other modern cults, "maya" indicates that the concepts of good or evil, right and wrong, negative and positive do not exist except as an illusion in our minds. One can transcend the duality of good and evil, matter and spirit, to live in a state of cosmic bliss where 'all is one'. Quite the opposite is Buddhism which propounds the necessity of distinguishing right from wrong and courageously battling evil wherever we see it in our everyday lives. These decadent attitudes of non-jugdmentalism and new age sentiment produce a passive and apathetic people who avert their gaze from the truth and allow the imperial shepherds of mind control to effortlessly manage their docile flocks. No human being should allow these ubiquitous modern trends to justify the subordination of their minds and emotions to the domination of any other person or group, even within our own organization. We should expose this deception, spill the beans and unmask such devious behavior whenever we see it!

After all our efforts to have dialogue were thwarted, we saw the same old patterns repeating themselves again. The leaders were sweeping the issue under the rug and burying it for good. They had turned the story around claiming that Sharon was faultless. They continued to minimize the issue by saying that it might have been a slight misunderstanding or a miscommunication between friends and that we are overreacting and creating a big issue over nothing. That we should just forget about the whole thing and concentrate on the business of taking care of our Chapter. They did not even recognize that we were adults just like them. We were treated like children. We had no recourse for further action to protect our own youth division. We had no right to challenge the authority of a higher ranking leader. At the time we were reading President Ikeda's weekly guidance's in the World Tribune to speak out against lies and injustice, to think critically and spot injustice, to stand up to irresponsible leaders in our organization to protect it from within. Also that the members should direct the actions of the leaders. One guidance we read was "If in the future there are leaders who sit back nonchalantly on the foundation that has been built by their predecessors, who maneuver their way skillfully to avoid hard work or responsibility, who are reluctant to devote every ounce of their energy to serving the members, then it will spell ruin for the Soka Gakkai. Indeed, I'm afraid that there are already such people in our organization. It is vital that you, youth division members, strictly remonstrate and take to task such negligent and self-complacent leaders". Instead of just accepting this state of affairs we decided not to remain silent. We decided to take bold action based on Sensei's guidance and put ourselves on the line for the members. We wrote a letter to Sharon CC'ing it to all our immediate and higher leaders telling them of our determination to resolve this issue. Here is our letter in full:

DATE: July 19, 1998

TO: Sharon Redman, YWD BQLI Region Leader

FROM: Phil Orenstein, Nassau Chapter MD Leader
Daphne Hazel, Nassau Chapter Vice WD Leader
Richard Tinsley, Freeport District MD Leader

RE: Incident with Melvina Hitchens

It is most unfortunate that you declined our invitation to have dialogue on July 15, 1998 regarding the incident with Melvina Hitchens and issues concerning the growth of Nassau Chapter YWD. Therefore we are communicating our concerns through this memorandum.
It is our understanding that for several years you have been assigned to assist Nassau Chapter and Blossom District (now, Freeport District) in particular. In striving to develop the YWD over the years, we have found that you were unavailable to provide the support that was seriously needed for the YWD to grow. Due to your unavailability, the District and Chapter leaders have taken on the responsibility of fostering the growth of the YWD. Melvina Hitchens is one of the YWD who we have been developing and has recently shown beautiful growth. She has truly given her best support to District and Chapter activities and has been very exited about attending the YWD FNCC conference, to bring back Sensei's spirit and further develop the YWD. 
When Melvina communicated to us (on June 20th) about her disturbing telephone conversations with you regarding her trip to FNCC, we were appalled. She expressed her discouragement to us and even felt like giving up on going to FNCC. In spite of that, we encouraged her to go and assured her that we would not let this matter go unresolved. During these conversations you became short tempered and angry at times and Melvina was made to feel the following:

1. It was Melvina's responsibility to "get to know" the new YWD area leader, Susie Corwin as a prerequisite for attending the YWD conference at FNCC.

2. Lack of contact with Susie Corwin could jeopardize her opportunity to attend the conference.

3. You were suddenly in serious trouble for selecting Melvina for the conference and you expressed your predicament by telling her "my ass is on the line".

4. One of the obstacles standing in her way of being approved to attend the conference by a team of YWD leaders was her lack of a positive relationship with her YWD Chapter Leader, Lorena Maldonado (who we all know has been too busy to be available). 

5. If this had truly been a team decision, then another YWD would have been selected, and the next time you will make the decision together as a team, implying to Melvina that she will not have a chance to go.

In addition, Melvina had to schedule two appointments with you to deliver her check for FNCC because you forgot. She also missed the FNCC orientation because this was communicated to her the morning that the orientation was scheduled.
Your lack of response to our request to dialogue about these issues conveys to us a sense of arrogance which indicates that you are not held accountable to the members. We deem it necessary that you reflect on this in order to change your behavior to that which exemplifies the actions worthy of an SGI leader. Again, we invite you to discuss this incident as well as the future growth of the YWD in Nassau Chapter. Until you honor our invitation, we respectfully request that you refrain from direct communication with our members; since it has had such an adverse effect. As an SGI leader, you should be aware that this type of behavior goes against Sensei's vision for our organization where the leaders are there to serve the members. 

As President Ikeda said:

"When you reflect on the sincere commitment of the members in our great organization and how a single leader's directive can affect thousands or tens of thousands of people, any leader who takes lightly or abuses that grave responsibility is a disgrace and cannot be condoned. If such individuals come to prevail, then the very life and spirit of the Soka Gakkai will die, causing it to degenerate into an organization that betrays the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. " -World Tribune, April 17, 1998

In the spirit of Sensei's guidance we look forward to discussing this further with you for the future growth and development of the Nassau Chapter YWD. 

CC: President Ikeda, Fred Zaitsu, David Kasahara, Jim Corwin, Amelia Moran, Erica Yamamoto, Diana McCray, Masako Havens, Susie Corwin, Lorena Maldonado

In a phone conversation with my are leader after receiving this letter she asked me what I meant by saying that Sharon should refrain from direct communication with our YWD members. I said that it means just what it says. Until Sharon meets with us and gives us assurances that this kind of behavior will cease, we will not stand by and allow her to come out here and influence our YWD negatively. My area leader then said "you're really crazy" and that I have no right to say that, and she will bring Sharon to meetings on Long Island with her anyhow. Again she insisted that Sharon never did anything wrong. She also said that I'm doing all this because of Stan Zir. I said that was ridiculous to say. This is a totally different situation and has nothing to do with Stan Zir! Stan did not put those offensive words in Sharon's mouth! She also called Daphne and Richard to see if they had anything to do with this letter or was it just Phil's doing. They of course said that they wrote it together and they signed it as well.

Then the Long Island Area leaders called a meeting with all Nassau Chapter leaders to talk about unity. We thought that they might scold us for attempting to "break the unity". We felt that this was a good opportunity to finally discuss some serious issues that affect the members. I prepared a statement to read at the meeting. Daphne and Richard were ready.

At the meeting the first item on the agenda was the appointment of Ed Yamamoto as our new Long Island Area leader. Then there were a few announcements, the schedule and the usual planning. Then an area leader led the discussion on unity by saying how important unity is to our organization and to the happiness of each member, so we need to fully discuss this concept. She opened the floor by asking us the question "what is unity?". I replied first by asking does unity mean that we must always comply and follow the direction of the leaders no matter what? Does it mean that we can't question or dispute a leader? Does unity mean just keeping silent when we see unjust behavior in our own organization just to maintain unity? No one was able to respond to my inquiries. A few minutes later after I saw that no one was bringing up the major issue, I said that recently a very unfortunate event occurred hurting one of our members and this is really what is on everyone's mind so I think we might as well discuss it now. Then I read my statement:

I have deeply pondered this situation with Sharon. The question here is one of morality. Is there a moral standard for Buddhists? If we say no one has the right to judge others, there is no need for laws and only chaos would ensue. What this is implying is that, if someone comes to your house and abuses your mother and even beats you, you will have no rights because you have stated, you cannot judge others. Then all rights for recourse and justice are gone.
Such statements like these are used to disarm and sedate the members, keeping them passive when they object to the actions of their leaders. But according to President Ikeda, the spirit of True Buddhism is quite different. We are asked to speak out if a situation arises that is not acceptable and detrimental to the membership. He does not say, you can't judge other peoples behavior. On the contrary, he says you have to make judgments and decisions regarding situations and people in your daily life in order to survive. He does not say because you are a member of the SGI that this standard does not apply. If so we would have a double standard. 
President Ikeda says: "The most important things in faith are the Daishonin's teachings and the Soka Gakkai spirit. To protect them you may have to strictly admonish people in senior leadership positions. There is nothing to be afraid of."
Its obvious that Sensei is saying you have to make judgments about people in order to protect the SGI if the leaders go off track. We never need permission from anyone to stand up to outlandish behavior. This is our duty. Buddhism holds the highest moral standards. We cannot stand by and relegate this behavior to the idea that abusive actions of leaders are just a slight mistake or misunderstanding between friends. Abuse of a member does not fit into this category. Suggesting that it is so would be an insult to our intelligence. In encouraging the Ikegami brothers, the Elementary textbook states: "The Daishonin is not encouraging the Brothers merely to go against what was accepted as the social norm. Rather here The Daishonin tries to inject the spirit of Humanism into their social obligation, thereby reviving its original intent. When ethics and morals go against humanism as expressed in Buddhism we do not have to follow them."
I myself cannot show loyalty or allegiance to anyone who would support such actions of abusive behavior. My loyalty is to the members, to the law and those who would uphold it. To think we are not capable of understanding this situation is ridiculous. We do not need an interpreter. These actions were outrageous and speak for themselves. Through these actions, Melvina has been deeply hurt and her integrity has been slighted and questioned and now her trust of the leadership is wavering. Being the Chapter Chief, my responsibility is to protect the members of the SGI family, and to be fair and just. If Sharon will not honor our request to meet with us and Melvina together, and the Area leaders become delinquent in their responsibilities and instead protect Sharon at the cost of Melvina's happiness, then in the spirit of Makiguchi, we reserve the right to invoke our privilege to protect our member, and take the necessary steps that will enable Sharon to reflect and change her behavior. There should never be a case that we protect the unjust and deceitful actions of a leader at the cost of a member's happiness. I quote Sensei: "Mr. Makiguchi insisted that the constituent members of a body or organization must direct the actions of the leaders"
All the pressure and insults that may follow this action can never force me to compromise my position. I put my trust in the people and the Law.

An open discussion ensued. Everyone stood up to protect Sharon right away. They falsely accused us of attacking her. One person said that we shouldn't pick on the leaders. Another one said "leaders are only human". Someone else said we should just concentrate on the chapter and forget about all this. It went on and on, but not one person asked "how is Melvina". Suddenly Sharon became the victim. Finally Daphne had enough of this absurdity and got up and left the meeting. Then Richard reiterated that all we wanted to do was to hold a fair and honest dialogue with Sharon so that she could reflect on her behavior and see what she needs to change in herself. We were only asking her to come forward and do the right thing. We never attacked Sharon, we were only trying to help her.

Soon the meeting ended and my new Area leader Ed Yamamoto took me aside to talk. I said that we were still determined to resolve this. He gave me the same rhetoric, that I should consider Sharon's feelings first, that leaders are human too, that I should have more compassion, that I'm thinking that I'm always right etc. This was an outrage. Not once did he consider Melvina's feelings and what happened to her. He was just trying to shut me up. 

During the ensuing months our Area leaders hoped that the issue would dry up and be forgotten. However, we reminded them on various occasions that this issue was still alive and would not be resolved until we hold a dialogue as we originally requested. On one such occasion, it was after a meeting and Richard, Daphne, our area leader and I were still in the room. We engaged our area leader in a conversation about the incident reminding her of our resolution. She was still trying desperately to protect Sharon and prevent dialogue even though she knew that Sharon's actions were wrong, because her subsequent behavior betrayed her true feelings. I pointed out that whenever we had serious issues in the past, it has been overlooked and swept under the rug. We were told not to judge and that the issues will be taken care of but they never were. I brought out the example of a WD who was stealing, borrowing money, doing drugs and destructive things to the members for almost 10 years in our Chapter and many members suffered and left the organization because she was allowed to continue, unhindered. None of her top WD leaders strictly admonished her for her own sake. They said that we should just chant about it and be patient, it will change. How ridiculous! No one except me seriously confronted her behavior because it was unacceptable. (writers note: this statement was not accurate, as I was informed after the letter came out. It was reported that other WD leaders had tried to confront her regarding her objectionable behavior. However I did hear those statements averting proper judgment constantly being made, when judgments were necessary to protect the members.) While it was alright for me to challenge a members behavior, that was not the case when it came to a leaders behavior. I said that we must stand up to any injustice in our organization whether it's a member or a leader whose actions are in question. I indicated that it's our right to censure any leaders' offenses if it becomes necessary. That evidently ticked our area leader off. She became visibly upset and responded "you think you're always right". I said that this is what Sensei has been saying in his guidance's. She replied that Sensei never said that. Then I brought out one such guidance from the World Tribune and started to read it to her. At that point she promptly left the apartment while I was still reading.

Meanwhile, over the ensuing months, Melvina stood up in her faith and practice and was showing magnificent results. One of her benefits was to relocate to Virginia where she enjoyed a great career opportunity and got fully involved with the Youth Division activities. She was eventually promoted to a YWD Chapter leader and today she has won the trust of everyone. When she was leaving for Virginia I made a promise to her in words that I will never let her down and never compromise with the unjust behavior of this leader and those that are protecting her. I promised her that I will fight to the end to right this wrong and to purify our organization, so she should never harbor any ill feelings or mistrust toward the SGI or its leaders because of what happened to her. Wherever she goes she can proudly boast this tradition of Nassau Chapter as a person of justice. 

Around that time, the grassroots committee which was later called the People's Representative Committee was announced by the top NY leaders at the Culture Center to the members of the BQLI Region. Jim Corwin and David Kasahara gave the go ahead to develop it on an experimental basis in Bayside/Flushing Chapter and see what results come out of it. It was agreed to because of prior incidents in Brooklyn. They said that whether or not other areas wish to consider it in the future, depends upon their particular situations. They also made a public apology to Stan Zir and his wife, Mary for the suffering that Jim had caused them because of his indiscretions and promised to reinstate his leadership position. We were elated at this turn of events and felt that now we could start to revitalize our organization and resolve many issues and go forward toward a bright future. So with this in mind I approached Jim and had a discussion regarding the unresolved issue with Sharon Redman. He told me that he is aware of it and fully agrees with me that she should be responsible as a Region leader to meet and talk with us. There is no reason for her not to meet with us. He promised me that he would contact her to help arrange the dialogue. But then he said that she hasn't been feeling well and he is not sure of her whereabouts lately and it might be difficult to get a hold of her. He said that he will try but he can't force her to meet with us. I said that we are determined to resolve this through dialogue and will not let this get swept under the carpet as so many issues in the past have been. He said that he will try his best but he is not promising anything and after a certain period time we should just let it go and move on. I told him politely that I couldn't accept this and that she should do the right thing as a responsible leader. He agreed with me. I stressed again that as I had promised Melvina, we will pursue it until this issue is resolved. We ended the discussion with Jim giving me his word that he would honor our request and help resolve it. Jim never did anything about it. He broke his word. I had the same experience with him before. It was futile to talk with him. He was just giving me double-talk to avoid the issue like all the other leaders. 

Over the next month or so nothing happened. Sharon never contacted us and neither did our immediate leaders regarding the dialogue. Needless to say during this time I was fulfilling all of my Chapter responsibilities and taking care of the members.

Meanwhile Bayside/Flushing Chapter had started developing the People's Representative Committee in their Chapter. Right after the announcement at the Culture Center, plans were being made to formulate this grassroots committee. They started having immediate positive results throughout the Chapter. They had great energetic shakubuku meetings (one with over 30 guests) and weekly Nikken-out Tosos. There was a groundswell of enthusiasm from the members and many were receiving incredible benefits. All of these activities were initiated by the members of the committee.

Several members on Long Island, were eagerly observing the experiment in Bayside/Flushing Chapter and the astounding results they were enjoying. We still had an unresolved issue in our own Chapter where we went through all the proper channels and were left with broken promises and no answers. We felt that this would be a great committee for Long Island and that we could change poison into medicine by trying it here. The design of the People's Committee would enable us to protect our members from situations like the one that happened to Melvina from ever occurring again! It gave us high hopes that we would have a mechanism to ensure that all the members would have a place to go in order to voice their issues and concerns without being ridiculed and falsely blamed or given guidance such as "it's your karma, just chant about it". It would be a venue where people will listen and the members would feel safe. Remembering the promise I made to Melvina, I decided that I would pursue it here. It was designed to function on the grassroots level so we started discussing it with members and junior leaders in the chapter and we got positive feedback from almost everyone who we discussed it with. Although we never got permission to develop it here, we were furious that the leaders were still protecting each other and breaking their promises to us and to the members. The apologies that Jim Corwin and David Kasahara made were meaningless. We saw no other recourse to remedy this behavior, so we took matters into our own hands to protect the members. 

Around the same time, Ed Yamamoto called me saying that he was going to appoint Scott Stickley to be the MD Vice Chapter leader. Then he corrected himself and said that he meant to say that he is recommending Scott. I said that I have some serious reservations about appointing him and that I wouldn't recommend him at this time. Ed told me that he knows how I feel about Scott and he said "how would you like it if I said, I don't like Phil, so we won't appoint him as a leader". That was ridiculous to say. It had nothing to do with weather I liked or disliked Scott. How would he know how I felt about Scott anyway. I never even talked to him about my feelings toward Scott. The facts were that Scott had a busy schedule, and therefore had little time for the members or activities. That was the issue. Even after being a YMD Chapter leader for the past 5 years he was relatively unknown in the Chapter and he had not raised a single YMD. Due to his career and limited time I didn't want to put undue pressure on him or on the members. I felt it was wrong to appoint him as an MD Chapter leader. When I described this to a few other concerned members and co-leaders in my Chapter they felt unanimously that we have to take immediate action before Ed could appoint him. His presumption and unwillingness to listen prompted us to take action and start the People's Committee in response to the current situation which could have had potentially harmful consequences to the members. We designated it as the "Ad-hoc People's Representative Committee" to deal with this specific issue. Because of the continued unaccountability of the leaders and no recourse for us, and now this current situation, we had to take action. The committee was formed from the grassroots level of our organization, from the general members level and up. They were all in complete agreement with me about the appointment of Scott. Sensei has always warned us that putting the wrong person in the wrong position could cripple an organization. We were afraid that he could be appointed at any time without our knowledge or consent. This was the customary way in which leaders have always been appointed in our Area. It has never changed. We all felt we had to take immediate steps to prevent this from having negative consequences for our Chapter.

We decided to ask Ed to meet together with the Ad-hoc Committee to discuss this issue. I called him to meet with us. He responded by saying "what is this committee, this is not an SGI activity." After a couple calls he agreed to meet with us to discuss Scott's appointment as well as our other concerns. 

When we met with him we discussed the issues and explained to him the functions of the People's committee. We communicated our excitement for this grassroots idea and our plans for establishing it in the Chapter. The meeting went very well as a truly open dialogue unlike those typically superficial sessions we've had in the past. Each one of us was allowed to express ourselves naturally and candidly regarding serious issues. We listened intently to one another and Eddie did as well. He said that he would not appoint Scott at this time, rather that he will watch him and see if he shows growth. He said that he had decided this before the meeting with us, but it was reassuring for him to let us know. 

Before this meeting took place we launched the committee officially at the beginning of the new year and announced it to the Chapter members. We set a date for a meeting for all those that were interested and put it on the monthly schedule. We planned for the general members up through chapter leaders of Nassau Chapter to attend. We did not include leaders above the chapter level so that the members would be able to freely express themselves. Otherwise there may have been an inhibited atmosphere where they might have felt disinclined to speak up. This was their meeting and the leaders were opposed to the members having such an open meeting without their direct control. This was a meeting to empower the members and in our current system the leaders are opposed to their empowerment. Presently there is no such venue for the members to be empowered with a true voice in overseeing the actions of the leaders and organizational affairs as stated by Makiguchi and President Ikeda. In fact a top leader Erica Yamamoto said "why can't I attend this meeting, I'm a member too". When we asked if members can attend the Region level meetings, she just said no. Changing this current state of affairs which doesn't permit the people to meet at the grassroots level without being monitored by higher organizational authority is one of the objectives of a grassroots movement. This grassroots process is not exclusive of further discussion and meetings between members and leaders, but it forms the basis of mutual respect and empowerment of the people. We gave out copies of the "Victorious America" paper which explains the concept of the People's Committee based upon Sensei's guidance's. We discussed the functions of the committee and how it can revolutionize our growth and development in the Chapter on all levels.

There was a much lower attendance at the first People's Committee meeting than we had anticipated. Many of the members initial excitement with this idea had suddenly seemed to turn sour. It seemed like an uphill battle with opposition from above. However we determined to keep fighting and handle all the objections. We learned later on that the leaders were calling the members putting doubt in their minds about our intentions, causing fear about this committee, and discouraging them from attending. The leaders main objection was that they were not invited to this meeting. But we knew from their statements and actions that they were opposed to it and would try to stop it in its tracks if they were to attend. They were opposed to the concept from the beginning because it would have made the leaders accountable. So they would have used their authority at the meeting to destroy this idea without a fair and open dialogue amongst the members.

Right after this, I got a call from David Kasahara who wanted to see me to discuss the People's Committee and that he had objections to the way that we implemented it primarily because he wasn't invited. We had dinner together and an amicable discussion ensued. I described the concept of the committee with him and that the seeds of it were actually planted when we stood up to protect a member 6 months ago and spoke up to leaders who abused their responsibilities and protected one another from blame and we found that we had no recourse. I told him that the reason for the committee was in the best interests of the members and leaders both, because it will keep leaders in check and empower the members with control in the organizations affairs. He objected that it would create a potentially harmful situation with everyone pointing fingers at everyone else. I said, that the function of the committee was just the opposite, that since it works on the basis of mutual respect between the members and the leaders, it would engender more trust and cooperative spirit between them. Just the fact that the committee was in existence as a safeguard against abuse of power, this alone would keep leaders behavior in check. Most leaders of course are doing their best, but in the case of those who go off track and abuse their responsibilities, and in the current system they are always protected by each other, the committee would function as a reminder to them to straiten up, because the leaders would be answerable to the members directly. He agreed that some leaders have been negligent in their responsibilities and that the leaders need to be accountable. But later on I realized that he would not make the leaders accountable to the members himself. He always protected the leaders regardless. As I found out later, he totally reversed what he said to me, showing a misunderstanding of this concept when he said "the only reason for this committee is to hang the leaders".

About a week or so after that, I had a dialogue with Tarik Hassan regarding the People's Committee. He objected that the function to empower the members to participate in the process of appointments and dismissals of leaders sounded too much like voting. He said that this would be very objectionable for the SGI because the members would use it to promote their own petty likes and dislikes, something resembling a popularity contest. I responded by saying that it is not voting at all, but rather a process of consensus as pointed out in the paper "Victorious America". I indicated that President Ikeda puts great faith and trust in the wisdom and common sense of the ordinary members, and so should we when it comes to important matters. I felt that Tarik had a repugnant attitude toward ordinary members by his statements which expressed his suspicion toward allowing them more latitude in organizational control. He said that he has never heard President Ikeda say anything about having such grassroots committees which participate in the running of the organization. I pulled out a couple of guidance's where Sensei discusses these issues: that the members in our organization should direct the actions of the leaders and that the maximum number of members should participate in organizational control. Also I read from a guidance where he talks about combining the current authoritarian pyramid structure with an experimental egalitarian circle structure for the most effective organization. I read to him these quotes which were all in our paper, and were the basis of our ideas for these grassroots committees. He responded that he had no answer and that he will chant about what I said and we will continue to discuss this topic in the near future. He ended the conversation there. However, I found it strange that he would end our discussion after reading President Ikeda's statements which were very clear and explicit.

A short while after on March 14, an information meeting took place where the Long Island People's committee members met with the Area leaders. The purpose of this meeting was to explain the function of the committee and reassure everyone that our intentions were pure. We gave them copies of "Victorious America". We also informed them of our plans to distribute the paper to all the members in the Chapter. There was a positive atmosphere even though there were disagreements. That is the way it should be. Erica Yamamoto said that we should continue to have such open forums. We felt that we had overcome some objections and we were making progress, and furthermore making history. 

Then a disturbing betrayal came to our attention while we were distributing the papers to the Chapter members. We learned that at the same time we had the meeting with the Area leaders, they were already making plans to distribute an "Open Letter" to all our members. The letter was dated March 12, which was 2 days prior to this meeting. This slanderous ad hominem letter was distributed to the members of BQLI Region. It was an attack on our character and intent, and a misrepresentation of our ideas. They put their official stamp of disapproval on our endeavors and crushed a valid proposal for the organization. They stopped it cold before we even had a chance to bring it to the members to open up fruitful dialogue.

The title of this letter, written by the BQLI Region planning board, and approved by David Kasahara was: "Open Letter to the Members of BQLI Region, Including Members of the "Representatives Committee". It immediately gave the impression that the committee members were a disparate element distinct from the SGI. It advanced many lies and distortions accusing us of forming a separate organization ("a self governing body", "a parallel or shadow organization"). The letter said that we made "vicious personal attacks" and "verbally attacked or abused other SGI-USA members" and that we were comparing SGI-USA leaders to Nikken and his followers. We were actually saying that the potential exists for authoritarian behavior in everyone and because of the Nikken issue we can eliminate it entirely to create an organization that is totally beyond reproach. But they twisted our argument to make it sound as if we were merely criticizing and pointing fingers at the leaders. Nothing was further from the truth as a careful reading of "Victorious America" would prove. Many of the leaders who signed the open letter never even read the full document.

After the open letter was sent out, one group leader, who was also a member of the committee, quit her group chief position in disgust saying that she had lost respect for her leaders because of the devious manner in which they manipulated opinion. She said that she can no longer work with people that lie and go behind your back to promote their own agenda and destroy your character for their own advantage. This behavior typifies cunning and hypocrisy rather than dignity and respect for human life!

There were further revelations that came out while talking with the members. We discovered that the reason for the small attendance at the introductory committee meeting was that our area and other leaders put doubt and negativity in their minds about the committee and discouraged them from coming to the meeting. One member told us that our area leader had called to find out if she knew anything about the committee and tried to discourage her from participating. In another case a District leader told me that her WD leader tried to frighten her with misleading stories about committee members. One of these stories was about me, that I had told two leaders at a meeting to resign, in front of others That was totally untrue. Also that the committee members attacked and removed another leader. That was also a blatant distortion. This district leader became very fearful and apprehensive about the committee after talking to her leader. Another member told me that her leader said that the committee is all about people sitting around berating one another. But when I explained the committee's purpose to this member, she thought it was a wonderful idea.

What's more, we found out that Jim Corwin and other top leaders were calling members all over New York to find information about us that they could use to further disparage our credibility and were lying to the members at the same time to protect themselves. But they could never justify their despicable actions no matter what dirt they tried to dig up on us. It's always the case with unchecked authorities to use such a tactic to confuse the people so no one could ever unmask such self serving behavior. It's just like a defense attorney who tries to overturn his clients rape conviction by discrediting the victim. Rape is still rape and no justification could prove otherwise. In my case the leaders can try to dig all they want. They'll never find anything to justify what they did.

So I found out that the leaders maliciously crushed the committee before it ever had a chance to be tried by discrediting us. In discussing it with the members, I found that a few had some valid apprehensions and questioned its usefulness, but once it had the official rejection and denunciation from above, it was impossible to even address their fears in an open manner. These fears were in most cases put in their minds by the leaders who made it look like we were doing something negative and questionable. The members didn't have a chance to see the merits of the idea and the necessity for a mechanism to protect the organization and its members from within. Some members began to distance themselves from me and I could hear a hesitancy in their voices when I called them. I was regarded as a pariah in my own Chapter because of the distorted information coming from authority. As I tried to continue educating the members and discussing these concepts I was viewed as pushing my own agenda on them. When I was speaking on the phone with a member whom I've worked with for years saying I would be happy to meet with her, she replied that she did not want to be negatively influenced.

I was branded as a demon, a negative influence, a traitor to my own members. This was the outright crime, the travesty of justice that the leaders committed. Most of the members just went along with this injustice, giving it their tacit nod of approval and did not speak out. In the words of Edmund Burke "all it takes for evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing" As everyone knows, President Ikeda's constant guidance has been to raise our voices against injustice. He said: "to fight passionately against injustice, to rebuke, attack and condemn it to the end, this is Buddhism and the correct path of humanity." He also said: "How noble it is to follow one's ideals! How shameful it is to betray one's comrades!"

For someone who has fought in the trenches, visiting, chanting and constantly caring for the members, hardly a few have stood up to this shameful treatment and I have therefore been ultimately betrayed. I am not saying this to merely protect and justify myself, but because of the noble ideals which this organization stands for, which are now crumbling beneath the feet of leaders unscrupulous conduct. The guidance's they have been giving to shield and protect themselves is that President Ikeda's statements about evil and injustice do not apply to a leaders' actions. They call it part of the process of human revolution. They say that the only ones who have a controlling monopoly on evil is Nikken and his followers who are trying to destroy our movement. SGI-USA leaders don't fall into this category, rather their mistakes are merely the result of typical human flaws or misunderstandings between friends. We must maintain unity lest the Temple will gain the advantage. They also say that all leaders are to be considered our "good friends" regardless. This is ridiculous. When a leader violates our rights, and what we consider the dignity of the individual, which has been exposed here in this paper, must we say that these leaders are our "good friends"? This is hypocritical and absurd and is no way to achieve unity.

Around this time, I had another dialogue with Tarik and this time his tone was totally different from our first conversation. He addressed me in a rude manner as if I were his subordinate getting a severe dressing down. I again spoke about the benefits of the People's Committee and about the incident with Sharon Redman. I described how this issue was never resolved through regular channels which is why we need these committees in our organization to prevent members from suffering like that in the first place. He told me that he has gotten some calls from my members complaining about the committee idea, that it is too political. He said that I should just forget about this committee business and stop complaining about Sharon Redman and start focusing on the happiness of my Chapter members. 

Of course some members were complaining. The leaders went around denouncing us and saying we were forming a separate organization, that we were breaking unity, it was political, and all the other revelations that were exposed in this letter. Tarik made it impossible for us to talk about these ideas openly and if we did, of course the members would complain, because we were denounced by the authorities in their eyes. Thus the ideas were portrayed as evil. This was orchestrated by the leadership in order to crush this idea. Actually, their own actions were political, while Tarik was accusing us of being political. The purpose of this committee was for the happiness and protection of the members. All Tariks' statements were scare tactics which were unfounded and furthermore were refuted by Sensei's guidance's which I previously had discussed with him and never got an answer. He was just trying to silence me. After he and the other leaders had originally decided to crush the committee, and went around denouncing us, they knew that naturally the members would call and complain to him, so he gave the appearance that he was a hero protecting the members against us. That laid the grounds for our dismissals. How despicable that a top leader would act this way. 

At about the same time it was announced that Sharon Redman was promoted to Northeastern Zone YWD leader. No attempt was ever made to address our concerns. She never apologized to us. No dialogue was ever held and the leaders continued to protect her. And now, to add insult to injury they promoted her to the highest ranking youth division position in New York. What kind of message is being sent to the members by this action. It's quite possible that Sharon has indeed reflected deeply by herself and reformed her behavior because of our ongoing stance against it. However, there is still no vehicle in our structure to prevent such occurrences from happening in the future. Nothing has changed to the status quo and leaders will continue to band together and protect each other in the name of unity, while the members suffer as a result. The "top down" structure remains and the members seem willing to be deluded into silence by such guidance's as "the system is not important, faith is what's important". 

At a meeting of my wife's District in Bayside/Flushing Chapter which I attended, Tarik Hasan was the central figure. After the meeting he took Mary Zir (WD Vice Chapter leader of Bayside/Flushing) into the kitchen and gave her an ultimatum saying "cease and desist" discussing any ideas relating to the People's Committee at discussion meetings, when in actuality she never had. All she was doing was relating President Ikeda's guidance's which were crucial to the Nikken Issue. I spoke up to him objecting to his dismissal of the person who raised the members of that Chapter from bare bones. At that point he started yelling at me pointing his finger at my chest saying "You're next!". Then he screamed at me furiously and said: "What are you doing here? Why aren't you in your own Chapter taking care of your members?". I yelled back at him to stop screaming at me, saying that you're not my boss. We were YMD together in the past, we both fought in many activities and campaigns before - why don't you talk to me as if we were equals. Then he backed off somewhat. He proceeded to say that the committee members band together in a pack and go from meeting to meeting. I said that was untrue I was just there because this meeting, which was close by, was held late and I got out of work late that night. He kept blaming the committee members for causing disunity and accusing Stan Zir of going off track. I told him that he is denying the truth and perpetrating falsehoods about Stan. He has stopped listening and stone walled me since our last conversations and he wasn't listening now.

I realized that I could no longer protect my members. There was a loose atmosphere where leaders were granted total protection from accountability and judgment. There were no longer any standards for behavior, no noble principles were upheld except the "noble ideal of no recourse".

(writers note: a section was removed here because it is unrelated to the main points.) 

The next few meetings, I attended in protest and I spoke out to every member that I came into contact with. I spoke out quoting from Sensei's guidance's and about the current injustices plaguing our organization which hardly reflects his spirit. People were afraid to look at it but I boldly stated these injustices. The injustices that sincere members were silenced and dismissed from their positions for doing nothing but speaking out for change. The injustices that people were being censored and silenced at meetings. The injustices that leaders were going around to the members bad mouthing and digging up dirt on people to justify their own actions. The injustices that leaders abusive behavior was covered up and protected. The injustice that slanderous letters were distributed to poison the members minds toward their friends in faith. The great injustice that guidance's about unity, friendship and the Temple Issue were being used to keep the members silent and cover up the injustices. The greatest injustice of all, that Sensei's noble ideals for a movement of the people was turning into a tyranny! But in every case, before I could even get a few words out of my mouth I was stopped. I was blamed for being offensive, inappropriate and angry. The leaders said that no one wanted to hear Phil's agenda anymore. However after every one of these meetings, a couple people quietly came over to me and congratulated me and encouraged me to keep speaking out. They were invariably newer members or out of towners. 

The next day after one of these meetings, I was dismissed by a phone call from Jim Corwin.

Now, as I continue to speak out, I fully expect to be excommunicated and considered a "devilish function", so that no one will listen to me. This will be their final attempt at a complete cover up. But I will never be silent until the truth comes out and a change is made in order to protect the organization. My allegiance is with the people and the Law. 

President Ikeda said recently: "The minute Mr. Makiguchi was thrown into prison, people who had sung his praises and called him Makiguchi Sensei with respect and deference suddenly did a complete about-face and denounced him. 'Makiguchi the scoundrel,' they cried. 'Makiguchi's to blame,' they accused. 'He deceived us!' Some even went to his home and showered abuse on his family."

While I myself am no Makiguchi, I find myself in good company.

My best wishes to all,

Phil Orenstein

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