Friday, November 14, 2014

Court Will Not Decide Validity of Vote In Challenge By Excommunicated Members of Buddhist Temple

In Matter of Ming Tung v China Buddhist Association, (NY App., Nov. 13, 2013), a New York state intermediate appeals court, in a 4-1 decision, refused to order a Buddhist Temple to hold a membership meeting with a receiver determining those eligible to vote. The dissent described the facts as follows:
Respondent Mew Fung Chen (Master Chen) excommunicated not only the three petitioners but a total of 517 members, representing all the congregants of the Manhattan chapter of the CBA and a majority of the CBA's members, 10 days before the special meeting called by the two unauthorized trustees appointed by Master Chen. Thus, he deprived the Manhattan congregants of their right to vote on the agenda of the meeting which, in effect, resulted in the transfer of control of all properties and assets of the CBA to Master Chen. Only 110 members of the Queens faction of the CBA, all supporters of Master Chen, were given notice of the special meeting. 
The majority held, however:
At first blush the petition appears to present a straightforward issue of corporate governance, specifically whether various corporate actions, including a meeting held in May 2011, were improperly taken, thereby depriving petitioners of their right to participate in those events.... We hold, however, that because petitioners are not members of the CBA based upon Master Chen's excommunication of them, they cannot challenge these corporate actions.... Petitioners contend that their excommunication was completely motivated by Master Chen's desire to squelch the simmering underlying dispute over ownership of real property in Manhattan and Queens where the CBA owns temples. Even where the parties' dispute concerns control of church property, the court will not intervene in matters that are predominantly religious disagreements...
Reuters reports on the decision.