By the last post one can tell searches for things can be quite diverse. Then again there can be searches for information that can be persistent and multiple. One such situation that I notice coming in at least once and usually several times every day for over a month and a half is related to the situation regarding the credentials of a teacher in Phoenix Arizona, one Mr. Barry Graham.
I was not going to revisit this situation again but new information, questions, links and the like have come up and the places for it are quite scattered. So I am going to make a comment on why this situation is important. People have expressed the concern that it isn’t really my problem, that it’s “best left alone” and that it somehow violates right speech among other things. So since I’m taking some heat over this I’ll just turn it up a notch further. Better well-done than medium rare. And evidently there are people who really care about this and who are looking for some kind of information. To that end I will do what I can to assist in clarification.
Why is a bona fide religious credential important?
There are several websites where lists of laws some think are stupid are maintained. One of the laws that is listed is impersonation of a clergy person. Most states (including Texas where it has been in at least one case deemed a felony) as well as most countries (including even Canada and Nigeria) have something similar or case law that supports charges of fraud in such situations. I’m not going to do any further research for specific states but lets just say it’s a prevalent concern. Here is the example of the specific law from Alabama:
Fraudulently pretending to be clergyman.
Whoever, being in a public place, fraudulently pretends by garb or outward array to be a minister of any religion, or nun, priest, rabbi or other member of the clergy, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $500.00 or confinement in the county jail for not more than one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment. (Acts 1965, 1st Ex. Sess., No. 273, p. 381; Code 1975, §13-4-99.)
Now some people do find that silly or dumb.And where the law is abused for example trying to punish someone for wearing a nun’s outfit on Halloween (it’s happened!) it is dumb. But for a more purposeful application of this law and in the spirit in which it is no doubt intended I am going to tell you why it is not so dumb.
As well FOX news has just reported a story from Associated Press of a man being arrested for performing marriages with unlawful credentials. See here -
Regarding marriage, many states and other jurisdictions do not recognize common-law (living together) partnerships and this may affect everything from job benefits to common property matters. Here’s a list of some of the possible effects.
hospital treatment (re. marriage and re chaplaincy)-Regarding marriage if the spouse is not legal then giving consent for hospital treatments etc. can be challenged. To find another relative or having a relative disagree with treatments and expose a marriage as illegal could put a patients life in jeopardy. As well on the subject of chaplaincy to give aid and comfort to ill people or those in dire circumstances while fraudulently presenting one’s self as a priest violates trust in more ways than I can express here.
inheritances (legitimacy of children)-children could be challenged in matters of inheritance if marriage is fraudulent
life insurance-spousal claims to life or other insurance could be challenged and/or denied
retirement funds-funds left to a spouse could be challenged or denied
divorce-community property laws if marriage are invalid and state does not recognize common law relationships
legal documents (ie passports) and cases (ie character witnesses)-often legal documents require signatures regarding character or verification from persons listed in certain professional categories such as priests, doctors etc. Those persons are assumed to be members of professional organizations and members in good standing. If someone represents themselves with credentials that they do not actually possess the documents in question can become invalid
job benefits-one’s spouse can be disqualified from family job benefits
mortgage applications and loans-co-owners or co-signers to a mortgage or loan when listed as spouse could result in a revocation of mortgage or loan and foreclosure by the bank
criterion for standards re counseling and other chaplaincy type work-often religious figures give counseling and perform similar duties. If unqualified their advice is questionable at best
admittance into high security areas (ie prisons)-persons representing themselves fraudulently who enter high security areas represent a security risk and put a very negative spotlight on any others who might have legitimate business there.
So that’s some of the potential damage that such pretense can incur.
Further to the Graham situation ushiro_geri writes more on his blog. He is a former student of Mr. Graham and has inquired of Soto-Shu as to Mr. Graham’s teacher’s credentials. Apparently Soto-Shu has no information on said teacher, dharma transmission or any temple named by Mr. Graham as a teaching location. Check his blog here.
If, as ushiro_geri writes, Mr. Graham is using techniques “borrowed” from Ven. Genpo Denis Merzel (a legitimately registered teacher and Dharma Transmittee) does he have authorization and training to use those techniques? I believe they are patented and copyrighted and trademarked etc. And if he is accepting dana and using those techniques is he a franchisee and paying the franchisee fees?
Why is Mr. Graham revising all his old blog posts to remove any mention of Ven. Kobutsu and his association with him over several years? History, especially Internet history cannot be rewritten. Copies of all related posts no doubt exist in some archive. And once archived they are not subject to rewriting and their removal is not possible without some legal intervention. Actually now the old blog has been deleted. So the revision of history continues I guess.
Hopefully this topic won’t again be revisited but who knows? I hope some of the above information is helpful to those who have been affected by this or any similar situation.