Shambhala Dodges Mandatory Reporting Duties That Expose it To Tort Damages in Boulder Child-sex Case

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Shambhala Dodges Mandatory Reporting Duties That Expose it To Tort Damages in Boulder Child-sex Case

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Shambhala Dodges Mandatory Reporting Duties That Expose it To Tort Damages in Boulder Child-sex Case
by Charles Carreon
July 1, 2019

How long can Shambhala claim ignorance of child abuse that happens in its centers? Twenty-two years, in the case of Michael Smith, arrested after he turned himself in to the Boulder Sheriff on June 28, 2019 on charges of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust as a pattern of sexual abuse. The Interim Board was quick, however, to issue its claim of ignorance in a missive to the faithful, brimming as usual with sanctimonious denials of responsibility:
The Interim Board wrote:Neither the Shambhala Interim Board nor the International Care and Conduct Panel were aware of any incidents involving Michael Smith prior to his arrest on June 28, 2019.

Let's face it -- that's why they have an Interim Board -- because it doesn't know anything about what happened anytime prior to its appointment. It's also why they disbanded the Kalapa Council -- it "knew too much." And what is this "International Care and Conduct Panel" but another paragon of ignorance? Of course, now that the Interim Board "knows" about this event of child abuse, they are eager to convey their total commitment to doing right in the future:

Interim Board wrote:Shambhala officials, teachers, and office holders, as well as general members, need significantly more training on proper reporting of misconduct. As well, Shambhala should never attempt to handle crimes such as sexual assult and child abuse internally

The fact is, of course, that the Boulder Shambhala had dealt with the problem through its local Care and Conduct policy, administered by one of Shambhala's finest Desungs, Dennis Southward, who has been teaching Shambhala students the "Desung Path" for many years. In October 2015, he taught "Entering the Desung Path" at Karme Choling. The description of the class leaves little doubt that Southward's elevated position as a religious leader makes him a "clergyman" who is subject to Colorado's mandatory reporting law: wrote:Entering the Desung Path
with Dennis Southward and Jan Jercinovic

October 30 - November 1, 2015

"Desung" means bliss or harmony protector. Desung practice is a profound path arising out of the Kasung tradition. It consists of protecting access to innate wisdom by embodying generosity, gentleness and fearlessness in our daily lives. This state of "being" is made possible by increasing trust and confidence in our basic goodness and that of the society in which we live. All situations are viewed as workable, and distress is recognized as a powerful opportunity to open to our basic goodness.

This program is open to Shambhala council members, Guides, Meditation instructors and people in the community who are interested in learning to work with difficult situations. Members of the Dorje Kasung are especially encouraged to attend. This weekend program is a prerequisite for Dorje Kasung who wish to apply to be members of the Desung Arm. The training also provides further depth to the profound path of the Dorje Kasung.

-- Entering the Desung Path with Dennis Southward and Jan Jercinovic

How did Desung Dennis Southward display his grasp of the "further depth of the profound path of the Dorje Kasung?" By victim-blaming, of course!

Joshua Eaton at Religion News wrote:Southward told police in May that a young woman was “exploring her own sexuality” when she was sexually assaulted more than a decade ago at age 13 by another man in the group and that her “exploration” fed the man’s addiction to pornography, according to a police incident report.

The official, Dennis L. Southward, 70, also told police that the woman “could do a lot of damage” to an important member of the community if she pressed charges against her alleged abuser, 54-year-old Michael Smith.

“Southward also pointed out that this incident occurred several years ago and that Smith is a business owner who is still involved in the Shambhala community within Colorado,” the police report says.

Southward went on to say that police needed to tell Smith’s accuser about the counseling he received after allegedly assaulting her.

-- Buddhist official tells police alleged abuse victim was exploring her sexuality

The remainder of the article leaves little doubt that Southward was a smooth-operator, able to spread oil on troubled waters, satisfying the victim's father with his resolution of the problem:

The woman told one of her school teachers and a close friend of her mother about the abuse in late 1998, according to the police report. The teacher reported the incidents to police, but the family decided not to pursue criminal charges and instead called Southward, who was a leader in the Boulder Shambhala community.

“(Southward’s) role in the Shambhala community was the person who deals with family conflicts or domestic violence issues within families,” the accuser’s father told police, according to a summary of his interview with police that is contained in the incident report.

“(The woman’s father) described Dennis Southward as ‘the rock’ and the one you would call for situations like the one they were dealing with,” the interview summary continued.

Another person interviewed by police described Southward as “having a health and well being role within the Shambhala Buddhist community.” Southward himself told police that “he is known throughout the Shambhala Community (sic) as someone who will address issues.”

Southward made Smith move out of the young woman’s home and helped negotiate an arrangement by which Smith would pay for the woman’s counseling and would seek counseling himself, according to the report. He also set “boundaries” for Smith’s contact with children at Shambhala events, according to the report.

The woman’s father spoke favorably of Southward in his interview with police, calling him a “good friend.”

What Shambhala is completely avoiding talking about is that Desung Southward was obliged by Colorado law to report the crime because he is a member of the "clergy". The Colorado Child Protection Act of 1987 was clearly in effect in 1997 when the abuse occurred. See this case reported in 1996, referring to a therapist's duty to report abuse under the law at page 1321: Dill v. People 927 P. 2d 1315 - Colo: Supreme Court, 1996. Furthermore, the failure to comply with the mandatory reporting duty exposes Southward and Shambhala (whose agent he was) to tort damages under the statute: "Any person who willfully violates the reporting mandate commits a class three misdemeanor and "[s]hall be liable for damages proximately caused thereby." § 19-3-304(4)(a)-(b)."

When Do Pastors and Clergy Have to Report Abuse?

A clergy member is required to report if they acquire “reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect or who has observed the child being subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect.” Put simply, a clergy member is required to report child abuse or neglect if they:

  • Observe the act of child abuse
  • Hear from a child about an act of abuse (to themselves or another child)
  • See a child who obviously is the victim of abuse (unexplained bruises)
  • Hear from someone (in a way other than during a confidential communication) about an act of child abuse

-- Mandatory Reporting of Abuse: Is Clergy Included in Denver?

By failing to report Smith to the police in Denver, Shambhala and Southward enabled him to predate on the children of other Shambhala members:

Religion News wrote:Boulder police say they also have been contacted by another woman, who alleged that Smith sexually assaulted her when she was 11 years old at Karme Choling, a meditation center that Shambhala International operates in rural Caledonia County, Vermont. Authorities in Vermont are investigating that allegation.

Why did the woman in Vermont, now in her thirties, come forward with her complaint? Because she knew that the law would do something about it.

Religious News wrote:Police said the two survivors do not know each other and that the women came forward after police in Boulder arrested former Shambhala teacher William L. Karelis, 71, in February for allegedly assaulting a 13-year-old girl he met through the Buddhist group.

Whether this is the tip of an emerging iceberg we do not know. A lot will depend on the willingness of victims to come forward, and if the Catholic Church's slow disintegration under the corrosive effects of sex abuse claims is any indication, it may take many more years for enough injured victims to step forward into the light. Meanwhile, Shambhala is playing its cards very close to its chest. But as each one is revealed, the inept handling of the crisis makes it clearer that whatever bliss this Buddhist group has been enjoying has been founded on willful ignorance of the rot at the root.

Edited at 7/2/2019 to correct an error in the penultimate paragraph regarding which victim was prompted to come forward by the Karelis arrest.
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Re: Shambhala Dodges Mandatory Reporting Duties That Expose it To Tort Damages in Boulder Child-sex Case

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As noted above, Dennis Southward was a Desung who did a lot of classes on "The Desung Path," including teaching a class at Karme Choling in 2015. See screencaps below, taken to preserve the evidence, because Shambhala has already scrubbed Southward's name from virtually all of these pages, something their IT team has apparently written a script for, in these days when it's important to disappear the truth tout suite.

FIrst, the Karme Choling page:


Next, the general Google site-specific search results:


Finally, the site-specific search for Tucson and Southward:


Just how important to teaching the "Desung Path" was Southward? Well, a site-specific search of "Desung Path" produces only a few more hits than does a search for "Dennis Southward," and it appears that Desung Southward was the main teacher of Desungs for many years, with the only other identifiable teachers being Dan Peterson, Kristen Mullen, Laura Burnham, Deborah Coats, Sarah Lewis, and Nicole Arsenault. Desung Southward clearly did more Desung teaching than any other Shambhala Desung.


Searches for "Dennis Southward" at reinforce the conclusion that the International Care and Conduct Panel is lying when it says it didn't know about how Southward handled the Michael Smith's child molestation in Boulder:

Shambhala Times wrote:The practice of protecting the third jewel started in 1984 when Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche asked Dapon M, Dennis Southward in Boulder to start caring for sangha members in difficult situations.

-- Supporting Enlightened “Care and Conduct”
Emily Sell, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s editor, recalls how the composition of the Treatise on Society and Organization occurred:

“I was just settling into an airplane ride when someone sat down in the seat beside me. It was Rinpoche. He had moved from first class to coach in order to dictate a letter to the President. I believe it may have been inspired by a conversation with Dapon Dennis Southward the night before."

-- "The Sakyong has something for you"
Dan Peterson, Desung Care and Conduct Officer in Shambhala Times wrote:I have condensed something Dapon M Dennis Southward said years ago at a Desung Training in Boston. It is something of a Desung slogan for me.

The war is over.
We are surrounded by the phenomenal world.
Our job is to surrender,
And to make offerings.

-- Jump the Gun
Kusung Dapon Noel McLellan in Shambhala Times wrote:The Desung aspire to assist, connect, encourage, or provoke any of these as needed, so that genuine care takes place. The Desung are commanded by Debbie Coats Rupon and the Desung Command Council, which includes Dapon H Simon LaHaye, Dapon M Dennis Southward, Irene Vliegenthart Rupon, David Whitehorn Rupon, Shari Vogler Rupon, and Kasung Laura Puts.

-- Today's Command
Dan Peterson in Shambhala Times wrote:The desung arm has developed rapidly in the last several years – perhaps because it is meeting a genuine need in the Shambhala community. What factors have contributed to this growth and have influenced the form that desung practice is taking?

I think Dennis Southward, Dapon M, started a really good model in Boulder, showing how desung can function in the community and actually care for people.

-- Interview with Debbie Coats, Desung Arm Commander

For a quote straight from the horse's mouth, let's consider what Southward himself told the police about his Desung role:

Joshua Eaton at Religion News wrote:Southward himself told police that “he is known throughout the Shambhala Community (sic) as someone who will address issues.”

Since we can assume that Desung Southward had some input on the course description posted at the Karme Choling website, it's fair to say that this statement expresses how he did his work as a Desung:

Desung course description wrote:All situations are viewed as workable, and distress is recognized as a powerful opportunity to open to our basic goodness

Finally, while this link has been scrubbed, what's visible on Google at this site-specific search at for "desung path" + "care and conduct" is just this fragmentary snippet, which is nonetheless illuminating:

Jan 12, 2019 - Friday Evening Talk: Entering the Desung Path with Dennis Southward ... Desung are especially versed in the Care and Conduct protocols... that

Adding up what we've learned and drawing a conclusion:

  • The Desung Path recognizes all situations as workable
  • The Desung Path recognizes "distress" as an "opportunity to open" to "basic goodness"
  • Desung know more about Care and Conduct protocols than anybody else in Shambhala.
  • Southward was the pre-eminent teacher of the Desung Path, who enjoyed close contact with Chogyam Trungpa and the Sakyong, inspired the development of the Care and Conduct process Shambhala-wide through his work in Boulder, and produced poetic statements that became "Desung slogans," as Dan Peterson put it.

  • Conclusions: Southward was very knowledgeable regarding Care and Conduct protocols and in fact helped to establish them; he viewed the "distress" of sexual abuse victims as "workable;" he viewed abusers as redeemable because he was open to their "basic goodness;" and, he taught other Desungs to apply Care and Conduct protocols in this way.

Thus, it is quite likely that Southward was one of the key victim silencers in Shambhala, the "go-to guy" when claims of abuse arose, who may have acted as a trouble-shooter to deal with victims nationwide, as well as an adviser to victim-silencers throughout the organization, who bear the title of "Desung." In other words, when it came time to circle the wagons, Southward was at the head of the parade.

For a personal injury lawyer seeking to "dig up the whole graveyard," the way forward would be clear:

  • Sue Shambhala and Southward for violating the Colorado Child Protection Act of 1987, under the "private right of action" provisions of Colorado Revised Statutes Section 19-3-304(4)(a)-(b).
  • Subpoena Southward and all of the Desung who have written laudatory articles about his role in developing and implementing the Desung Path and the Care and Conduct Policy.
  • Demand copies of all documents that identify child molesters in the organization who were recognized as possessed of "basic goodness," and therefore never reported to the police.
  • Use the documents so discovered to establish:
    (1) that the Shambhala Interim Board was lying when it said that the International Care and Conduct Panel didn't know about Southward's handling of the Michael Smith matter,
    (2) that Shambhala's failure to mandatorily report the child abuse that some victims say was endemic in the organization was no accident, but rather a pattern and practice,
    (3) use facts 1 and 2 to establish an entitlement to punitive damages, and
    (4) to identify additional victims whose violators can be prosecuted and sued.

This is what justice demands.
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Re: Shambhala Dodges Mandatory Reporting Duties / Karelis Trial Postponed to "Spring 2021"

Post by Admin »

Updated 8/31/2020
Former Shambhala teacher has Boulder sex assault pushed back to spring of 2021
By MITCHELL BYARS | | Boulder Daily Camera
July 14, 2020 at 2:36 p.m.

A former Shambhala teacher accused of sexually assaulting a girl he was mentoring had his trial pushed back to the spring of 2021 due to concerns about the impact of the coronavirus.

William Karelis, 72, in December pleaded not guilty to sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust and was set for a seven-day trial starting Sept. 21.

But at a remote motions hearing Tuesday, Karelis’ attorney Paul McCormick asked Boulder District Judge Bruce Langer that the trial be delayed due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. McCormick said some witnesses have said they are “very, very worried about their health and testifying in September.”

“What we want to have is a trial that is set out far enough where there is a reasonable likelihood that, it’s not going to be over, but that the juror and witness concerns are significantly abated,” McCormick said.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Laura Kinde said the victim has objected to a continuance, but said that the Boulder District Attorney’s office would be “amenable” to a delay given the concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

Langer said he and Boulder District Judge Thomas Mulvahill, who will oversee the trial, were “reluctant” to delay the trial. Langer said his impression was that the Colorado Supreme Court would not be extending its order halting jury trials up until August.

“I’m frankly torn, because I have people who are screaming for their trials, and people who want to continue their trials,” Langer said.

But Langer said that since prosecutors were not objecting to a continuance, he would grant it.

“If the people don’t object and Mr. Karelis is willing to waive speedy trial, then I will grant it,” Langer said.

Karelis, who is out on bond and appeared remotely, did waive his speedy trial rights to accommodate a new trial date, and Langer set a new seven-day trial starting March 1.

According to an affidavit, Karelis met the girl in the 1990s when she was about 8 through Shambhala, when Karelis was assigned to her as her meditation instructor.

The girl, who was living in Denver at the time, spent time getting to know Karelis and told police in the first few years she spent a lot of one-on-one meditation time with him.

According to the affidavit, things began to escalate in 2000 when the girl was about 13, and she began taking the bus with her parents’ permission to spend weekends at Karelis’ Boulder house for teachings.

The girl would sleep in a downstairs room at Karelis’ home, but told police Karelis would come into her room after his wife fell asleep and would perform oral sex on her.

The girl told police this happened 10 times over about 18 months.

Investigators did not become aware of the case until August 2018, when the named victim — now in her 30s — told a friend about the incident and the friend reported it to Boulder police.

Karelis resigned from Shambhala in 2009. When he was arrested in February, Shambhala’s board released a statement noting the organization had conducted two “Care and Conduct complaint procedures” in 2002 and 2008, initiated by women who alleged Karelis had behaved inappropriately toward them.

His teaching and meditation instructor credentials were suspended in 2004 and revoked in 2008 after he failed to comply with the Care and Conduct procedure, according to the statement. ... g-of-2021/
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