Sorry Spirit Rock, We Don’t Buy It: What Did Noah Levine Do?

Baby Boomer Buddhists Innuendo Filled Statement and Discredited Investigative Methods Add up to Nothing…

In the now expected strategy, Spirit Rock Meditation Center followed the playbook established by the former Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society Board. Today issuing a fact-free, utterly vague and over-the-top statement against buddhist teacher Noah Levine. In the statement Jack Kornfield rescinds Levine’s authorization to teach in the Spirit Rock lineage and removes Levine’s ability to claim affiliation with the meditation center. In a cowardly flourish, all Ethics and Reconciliation council members have failed to sign the letter or post their names on the Spirit Rock website.

In the same vague style as Against the Stream, the Spirit Rock EAR council statement put forth no facts about exactly what Levine did wrong. “…caused harm”? How? What we find incredible is that Spirit Rock and Jack Kornfield expect American buddhists to trust that their ruling is credible without demanding any hard evidence.

It is very likely that, like the ATS report, the Spirit Rock report will either be kept secret or “leaked” to a tabloid who can then work to smear Levine further without revealing any facts. The reasons given to keep the report secret will be to “protect the accusers”, even though a redacted version of the report could be written and released. Legal decisions over the last 4-5 years are dismantling policies that attempt to overly protect accusers at the accused’s (and societies) expense. Judges are repeatedly ruling in favor of cross examinations in an open environment for sexual misconduct hearings as the only acceptable way to find the truth.

Why all the secrecy? The real reason the report will be kept secret is that there is nothing in the reports to implicate Levine in a financial or sexual crime. All accusation and no further evidence. There is nothing of substance in the reports. No sexual harassment. No sexual assault. No rape. No theft. No misuse of funds.

How do we know that? Simple logic. If the reports by either ATS or Spirit Rock contained any factual credible criminal accusations against Levine that rose to the level of sexual harassment, assault or rape Levine would be charged by now. Both ATS and Spirit Rock are obligated legally to report any credible accusations to the proper legal authorities. According to the LAPD investigator of the single police report filed accusing Levine, “… no charges are being pursued”.

If there were any factual, credible civil financial misconduct related to any of the organizations Levine founded, a lawsuit would have surfaced. As a side note, the smear made against Noah Levine of using funds earmarked for RR scholarships at the RR Treatment Center contained in the filing of the RR Boards trademark lawsuit is false. Investigated twice, and called legal by RR Board members from the stage of the 2017 Refuge Recovery Conference this appears to be an attempt by the RR Board to stir up animosity towards Levine by uninformed members of RR.

Reports by both ATS and Spirit Rock were compiled using secret witness statements unchallenged by any attorney. The reports were then used in secret proceedings following the now discredited techniques of illegal Title IX campus hearings, where the accused never get to cross examine their accusers, and allegations are investigated by the same people who decide guilt or innocence. At A.T.S both conditions were in place, Levine’s attorney never got to establish the credibility of accusations through questioning of the accuser in the presence of a judge or jury, and a single investigator, Roberta Yang, both investigated and decided guilt or innocence.

Spirit Rock’s EAR council procedures, as detailed on the SR website, do not meet the minimum standard of cross examination and a verdict rendered by an independent judge or jury. Instead the verdict rendered against Mr. Levine was decided by teachers who may be friends, professional rivals or spurned lovers of the accused. These teachers may carry deep religious and generational biases about how buddhist teachers “should” act regarding personal style and decorum in every area from language to sexual style to appearance.

Title IX hearings using the same methods as Spirit Rock and ATS have been ruled illegal in CA. The California State University (CSU) system mandated campuses to halt all current and appeal-pending Title IX sexual misconduct investigations (over 75 cases) while the CSU adopts a new investigative model. The new model, now required by California law, will guarantee students accused of sexual misconduct the right to cross-examine their accuser, potentially during a live hearing through an advocate. By court mandate this information-gathering period will more closely resemble a court-like proceeding, with the due process rights for party advisors to separately question the involved students during a public hearing.

This change was precipitated by CSU’s continuous losses in the California Court of Appeal.

Spirit Rock is a private religious organization. Churches are not compelled legally to offer accused teachers a hearing that could be considered fair in an American court. We feel as American buddhists that fairness, compassion and decency could be acted upon by rescinding this decision against Levine and restructuring Spirit Rock’s ethics and reconciliation procedure to reflect the superior truth finding procedures of American court systems. This would be the ethical choice.

We believe this should be the future for any American sangha. When it comes to decision making, with the potential to cause serious harm to teachers reputations and livelihoods, and to divide sangha’s; bedrock American principles of fairness and the equal protection of all citizens due process rights should override monastic council traditions imported from societies notorious for their lack of respect for individual civil liberties.

—The American Buddhist staff