BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A Buddhist leader in Baton Rouge is at the center of a civil suit after being accused of sexual misconduct and mismanagement.
Members of the Tam Bao Temple alleged that Abbot Quyen Van Ho, whose religious name is Thich Dao Quang, has a number of times recruited women from Vietnam to Baton Rouge, only to become sexually inappropriate.
In one case, court documents claim Ho impregnated a nun from Vietnam living in the temple. When the young woman sought help from two of the petitioners named in the civil suit, they allegedly took the pregnant woman to Delta Clinic for an abortion. The woman was allegedly denied the abortion and Ho sent the nun back to Vietnam without explanation to the Board of Directors or Buddhist members.
The suit claims Ho has created irreparable harm by “violating his vows of Buddhism, including his vow of celibacy.”
In the preliminary injunction hearing Monday, the 19th Judicial courtroom was packed with supporters for both sides. Lila Ton is one of those community members. She came to show support for the plaintiffs and the other woman of the temple who wants Ho removed from his position.
“It’s really just about holding a man in power accountable for his actions,” Ton said.
According to court documents, community members have text messages and photographs as proof of the alleged misconduct.
“This is a place where we all come together as Vietnamese Buddhists, we want to learn and strengthen our community but now it’s just divided,” Ton said.
Mya Tran, another community member, came to the courthouse to be a voice for many women who need her support.
“I think it is really important for us to shed light on this situation and not be silent, especially as a younger Buddhist woman myself. I look up to a lot of these women, especially for what they have done for our community, and seeing them be so oppressed and silenced on this situation really upset me,” said Tran.
Ho denied the allegations outside the courthouse.
“None [of the] allegations about my personal misconduct are true,” said Ho.
Many of the community members want Ho removed from his position and asks the court to step in.
“They have made a lot of allegations, which as you heard, are not any of the court’s business,” said one of Ho’s attorneys, Yigal Bander.
Bander and his co-counsel Tanner Woods said this matter does not belong in court.
“The government doesn’t get to pick who our religious leaders are,” Woods said.
But Ton and the other members of the community say they have exhausted all other options.
“We have tried so many avenues to grant him forgiveness and it’s just time that the court step in,” Ton said.
The court has ordered both sides to confer and attempt to agree on upcoming election details including an updated roster of the temple’s official members. This vote could result in Ho being replaced.
“I want to have this election as soon as possible,” said Ho.
“We want what’s best for the community, that’s really it,” said Ton.