Buddhist Monks to Sue Daily Mail, Threaten Blogger

American Buddhist blogger Precious Metal  has received an unwelcome missive by email from UK libel specialist law-firm Carter-Ruck:

We act for the Buddhist monks William Van Gordon and Edo Shonin and write in connection with an article entitled “A Mother’s grief: ‘The cult guru who turned my son into a zombie'” that was published by the Daily Mail on 25 May 2007 and which is also published by you…

The article contains a number of false and highly defamatory allegations of both our clients and has caused considerable damage to their reputation. We write to give you formal notice that we have issued High Court proceedings for defamation on behalf of our clients against the publishers of the Daily Mail and ask you to remove the article from your website as a matter of real urgency. The article has been removed from the Daily Mail’s own website.

Articles critical of Edo Shonin (or “Edo Shonnin”, born Edward Penney) have also appeared on The Buddhist Channel.

Edo and Van Gordon run the “Tranquil Abiding Buddhist Retreat” in rural Wales, formerly known as the “Pine Forest Sangha”; according to a profile on its website

Br. Edo, originally from Scotland has dedicated the best part of his adult life towards spiritual development. He has received many transmissions and has been formally ordained in both the Hinayāna and Mahayana Buddhist schools. Br. Edo has followed the example set by his first teachers who in addition to being Buddhist monks also practiced the less familiar ways of the Yogi and have preferred as much as possible to remain unknown and unimportant…In a visit to Thailand earlier this year both of the Brothers received transmissions and further formal ordinations as Yogis under Master Draythep Chantawanno in Northern Thailand…The Brothers believe that whilst lineage and tradition are very important and special, sometimes people risk falling into the trap of following a particular group just because it can make impressive claims or has teachers with impressive titles for example.

Questions had been raised about Edo Shonin’s lineage in the past; an older website for the Pine Forest Sangha dealt with this in a rather less modest way:

At Pine Forest Sangha, we remember that the Buddha, Christ, Guru Nanak and Mohammad did not have any so called lineage or impressive title. They awoke to a universal realisation and they attempted to communicate to everyone that each and every sentient being is born with the capability of this realisation regardless of lineage or school of thought.

This older website also had more details in its profile of Edo Shonin:

Edo Shonin has been a monk in the Nygma and Shingon traditions for 43 years. Born to a devoted Buddhist family, his monastic education began at 5 years of age. From the beginning he has been devoted to the traditional Shingon ways as well as the Lam Rim and Zog Chen teachings of the Nygma. He has dedicated all of his life to learning and teaching Buddhism in various Asian countries…Having been Abbot of various monasteries in the East, he has now been invited to Great Britain.

Van Gordon, meanwhile, is his disciple, and it is his mother who made the allegations that were reported in the Mail. There is no other mention of “Master Draythep Chantawanno” that I could find on-line, although of course there may be Thai sources and alternative transliterations of his name.

Precious Metal has been given seven days to comply with Carter-Ruck’s demands or face “an injunction, damages and legal costs”. However, the blog is based in the USA and the owner has declined to comply; a couple of American court decisions support his position. Wired noted one in 2003:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Tuesday that Web loggers, website operators and e-mail list editors can’t be held responsible for libel for information they republish, extending crucial First Amendment protections to do-it-yourself online publishers.

Online free speech advocates praised the decision as a victory. The ruling effectively differentiates conventional news media, which can be sued relatively easily for libel, from certain forms of online communication such as moderated e-mail lists…The court based its decision on a section of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, or the CDA. That section states, “… no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

And in 2006 California brought us this:

The court, in a unanimous decision, said those claiming defamation can only sue the original source of the allegedly offending comments, not publishers or distributors, even if the distributor is an individual. Internet users are protected by the same 1996 Communications Decency Act that grants immunity against defamation claims to publishers in most circumstances, the court said, overturning a San Francisco appeals court.

(Hat tip: Cult News Network)

4 Responses

  1. […] case law cititations Found a link back to my blog via http://barthsnotes.com/2008/08/04/buddhist-monks-to-sue-daily-mail-threaten-blogger/ that mention a couple case law citations regarding the threat of “libel” against me in […]

  2. […] join the ranks of Muslims, Christians, British mercenaries and Uzbek billionaire gangsters in threatening legal action against bloggers. […]

  3. Thanks for posting this!

  4. Buddhist Monk Notebook has an interesting story about a buddhist monk and information for anyone aspiring to monkhood

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