Friday, June 04, 2010

Help Save the Albuquerque Stupa: Updated

Stupa as it appeared before Smokey got his nasty paws on it.

Dear Readers:

Over the past two years, we have posted three items on the subject of an at-risk stupa near Albuquerque, New Mexico. We would appreciate if you would read those items, and familiarize yourselves with the issue at hand, because now we are going to do something we have never done before: we are going to beg for your help --

(1) Lost Stupa of Albuquerque
(2) Lost Stupa of Albuquerque Revisited
(3) What the Mojave Cross Case Means to Tibetan Buddhists

Stupa as it appeared after Smokey got his nasty paws on it.

Ariane Emery, one of the people who built this stupa, tells the story briefly, but she tells it best:
"When the stupa was built, it was on private land. We fought the park service for 6 years after finding out they intended to take the land on which we lived. After the park service took the land, they razed everything on it, including the the house, the outbuildings, gardens and sweat lodge area. Even the 100 or so native trees are now gone. Many monks, lamas, Native Americans and practitioners visited and even lived there. Many wonderful people have poured their hearts there."
The stupa has been consecrated -- three times -- by Lama Rinchen Phuntsok, who scoured the world for the texts placed inside. As Ariane says, "Many of us came together at the right time to create this offering." However, just this past week, Ariane went back to Albuquerque, and visited the stupa. She tells us:
"There was a bulldozer nearby and a large number of piles of sand. I went to the visitor center and the ranger said the park was going to build an amphitheater there."
The National Park Service believes it has the right to bulldoze this stupa? This is completely unacceptable. Apparently, there are some people in Washington, D.C. and the State of New Mexico who believe that Buddhists don't vote, and that world opinion does not matter. We need your help to educate them. We need you to show them the error of their ways. Lets get down to cases: we need your help to raise a 'Sixties-style, students-in-the-streets, political stink about this, and save that stupa!

This photo taken today. Note sand piles in background. This is being trucked in.

There are a number of ways to proceed. One supposes the top priority is to find a public interest law firm willing to take this case pro bono. We need an underlying action upon which to base an injunction, and that will require plaintiffs. Any volunteers?

One also imagines letters to Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior Ken Salazar, but it is difficult to believe that will do any good. He is out of the Senate and serving as a Cabinet Secretary now. He doesn't necessarily need to be responsive to constituents, but he does need to be responsive to appropriations -- thus, perhaps the best approach is to start lighting up the House and Senate.

Now, appalling as it is, the House and Senate do not listen to you and me, but they do listen to the media, so any grassroots campaign must bring print and broadcast journalists on board in the early stages. Here is how it all breaks down:

Hon. Jeff Bingaman
United States Senate
703 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3102
(202) 224-5521

Bingaman is a Democrat; a former New Mexico Attorney General. His Chief of Staff is Stephen Ward, and his Legislative Director is Trudy Vincent.  He is up for re-election in 2012.

Hon. Tom Udall
United States Senate
110 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3101
(202) 224-6621

Udall is a Democrat; a former New Mexico Attorney General, and former Assistant United States Attorney. His Chief of Staff is Tom Nagle. His Legislative Director is Michael Collins. He is up for re-election in 2014.

Hon. Martin Heinrich
United States House of Representatives
1505 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-3101
(202) 225-6316

Heinrich is a Democrat; a former member of the Albuquerque City Council. His Chief of Staff is Steve Haro. His Legislative Director is John Blair. He is up for re-election in 2010 and this mess is in his backyard.

Albuquerque Journal
John Robertson is their Government/Politics Editor.
(505) 823-3911
you can also hunt and peck for an investigative reporter here.

KRQE is the CBS affiliate. Contact points are here.

KOAT is the ABC affiliate. Contact points are here.

A full list of local media is here, but the above should be enough to get you started.

Photo taken today. A local Buddhist volunteer is performing maintenance.

Print journalists and Hill staffers want reasoned facts they can list in bullet format. They use these to build story outlines, talking points, and so forth. Broadcast journalists want visuals. In either case, you have to articulate a demand: we want the National Park Service to sell the land under the stupa to the local Buddhists, and we want Heinrich to introduce a legislative solution similar to that introduced by Rep. Lewis in the Mojave Cross case. We can give him tips on how to do that by researching the  Lewis Bill, and present him with a complete package. Since he is a freshman, he will need all the help he can get.

Now, either Heinrich is going to be responsive or he is not. In either case, a group of monks, nuns, lamas, and lay people, carrying signs, and holding a press conference at the site will bring out the cameras. He, or his representative, can show up and be a hero or a zero -- that would be their call.

At the same we are approaching Heinrich, we also need to approach Bingaman and Udall for companion legislation. Both senators are extremely skilled lawyers, so we won't need to do as much hand-holding. We will need to present a sound argument. We believe both will be sensitive to the recent Supreme Court ruling.

No matter what we do, we will need to demonstrate that there are Buddhists in New Mexico, and that these New Mexican Buddhists are politically aware. We should also include Senators Feinstein and Pelosi in our campaign -- just in case somebody in Washington needs a number to call and ask, "Why is a stupa so important?"

So there is the mission -- save the stupa in Albuquerque.

Please help by contacting every Buddhist you may know in New Mexico. Please contact the politicians and journalists noted above, explaining why it is important this stupa be preserved. If you are a public interest attorney, or if you know one, please do not be shy: jump on this one. If you are a blogger,  please start blogging. If you are a Tweeter, start tweeting.

Please help. Even if you are overseas, please help. The stupa is there for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Kyle Lovett (no relation to Lyle?) championed this cause at the Reformed Buddhist blog, wherein he raised the important point of different treatment. Here is what Kyle had to say:
The Federal government has announced its intentions to bulldoze a small Tibetan Buddhist Stupa near the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico after the National Park Service seized the land using the power of eminent domain to build an outdoor amphitheater. This comes on the heels of a similar case, when earlier this year the US Supreme Court voted in a 5-4 decision to save a Christian Cross residing on NPS land inside the Mojave desert, after the NPS denied a Buddhist organization request to build a small Stupa near the Cross. In yet another similar case in 2006, President George W Bush signed into law an act of eminent domain to save another Christian Cross residing on public land inside the City of San Diego, after the US Court of Appeals had ordered the Cross to be taken down, stating the violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the No Preference clause in the California Constitution.

Yesterday, I was unable to reach anyone in the National Park Service Headquarters that was willing to give any comment on their plans or reasoning behind bulldozing the Stupa. Certainly, if the Federal government is willing to use the very powerful tool of eminent domain to save a Christian Cross residing on public land, its actions in New Mexico bring up very important Constitutional questions of its endorsement of religion given its willingness to use the same powers to bulldoze a symbol of another religion. The first amendment of the US Constitution strictly forbids the United States government to "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

The question has to be raised, is the US government indeed attempting to establish a de facto official religion by its actions over the past 5 years? Ken Salazar, the Secretary for the Department of the Interior, which runs the National Park Service, has been eerily quiet about these actions, as has the Obama administration. Unquestionably, the volunteer caretakers of the Stupa have been more than willing to work with the NPS to preserve the Buddhist symbol within the confines of its amphitheater plans, however, any attempts to open dialogue have been met with no success. One of the ongoing advertising campaigns of the NPS has been "Get Involved!"; I suppose they only wish those to get involved if they are indeed Christian."

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10 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

Link posted a couple of places on Facebook; Wikipedia entry on Petroglyph National Monument edited.

TENPA said...

Thank you. We are starting to see some action. Please, everyone, contact the Hill and make your voice heard.

Kyle Lovett said...

Thanks for bringing this very important issue up. I am trying to have some media outlets here in DC to looknat it. We'll see if we get any hits.

Thanks again! Kyle

Kyle Lovett said...

Thanks for bringing this very important issue up. I am trying to have some media outlets here in DC to looknat it. We'll see if we get any hits.

Thanks again! Kyle

TENPA said...

Thanks for picking up this one, Kyle. We are definitely getting traffic from the Hill and the Park Service. I also want to mention that I have learned there are Native American relics in that stupa, which I believe offers a whole new range of legal protection.

Ariane said...

Thanks everyone for your support. I did want to make one correction, Tenpa. The stupa did not actually contain Native relics, however, there was a part of the property dedicated to the well attended sweat lodge. I am sending you some photos. It is this area that is now covered by the piles of dirt being trucked in. The site was destroyed long ago by the park.

Togen said...

Did the park service ever in fact build on the land?

David said...

Where is the media? I can't find any story about this other than at this blog and other blogs that link here. I've sent some notes to media outlets, but no one seems to be biting..

TENPA said...

Togen, they are getting ready to build an amphitheater.

David, good question. Local New Mexico media is the least responsive I have ever seen.

I do know that national media is becoming interested because I have been contacted. Whether the story "gets legs" is another question.

ariane said...

Thanks for the outpouring of energy - it's working. I got called by the Albuquerque Journal today and there will be an article in Sunday's paper. Word is, that the piles of dirt near the stupa are from clearing for more parking and that the actual amphitheater will be 500 feet away.