Dear Refuge Recovery Community,
Last week, Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society (ATS) sent out an email to its mailing list reporting on their investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct made against Noah Levine. ATS concluded it was likely that Noah had violated the ethical code for Buddhist teachers against causing harm with sexual conduct. At the same time, ATS announced that, for financial reasons, it was ending operations.
ATS did not release their investigator’s report to us or to the public. Noah responded with a public statement directed to both the communities of Refuge Recovery and ATS. A link to both statements can be found below.
Refuge Recovery is a California Public Benefit corporation organized as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code. It exists to support the worldwide community of Refuge Recovery groups through training and education, sharing resources, and fostering collaborative projects. While it has been a source of much confusion, Refuge Recovery is not affiliated with the Venice, California based Refuge Recovery House, LLC, doing business as Refuge Recovery Centers or any other enterprise that may use a similar name.
Though Refuge Recovery began as a special project of ATS, it has operated independently for over a year. While we are deeply saddened to know that ATS will soon be closing, this decision does not affect our organization financially or threaten our viability. Our growth has been unabated. As of today, we have 618 registered weekly meetings, with 18 meetings alone added in the last seven days.
Last March, the board was informed that a police report had been filed alleging that Noah had committed sexual assault, and that ATS was launching an investigation. Our board’s Executive Committee asked Noah to step down from the board and he agreed. We lacked the resources to conduct our own investigation, so our board decided to take no further action at that time. Subsequently, the board’s Executive Committee made the additional request that Noah not participate in our annual convention in June and again he agreed.
None of the complaints were brought directly to the Refuge Recovery Board of Directors and, to the best of our knowledge, none of the allegations were raised by a member of the community. We know, however, that many people in our community have felt deeply affected by the allegations, the investigations and ATS’ findings. We cannot and will not ignore or minimize the impact they have had on our community.
The board believes it is vitally important to encourage the expression and processing of many diverse perspectives and experiences within our communities. We hope you as individuals and as communities will listen directly to the perspectives and the requests of those who have felt harmed or for whom these events have triggered emotional trauma.
Refuge Recovery is a peer-led recovery community. Our principal concern is the well-being of those seeking freedom from the suffering of addiction. We believe that part of our practice is to meet this painful experience as it is with compassion and to continue on in nobility. We further believe that this can, in the long run, be a catalyst for growth in our community. We hope all of us will see this as an opportunity for self-reflection and examination of ways the groups can become safer and more welcoming for all our members.
From the outset, our board has been tasked with managing Refuge Recovery’s transition from being entirely driven by one person to being peer-led such that all major decisions can occur democratically at the group level. Being peer-led means we do not rely on the teachings or reputation of any one person for our strength. Ultimately, we anticipate that much of our board’s role will be shifted to the regional and local levels, leaving our board to focus exclusively on supporting the groups, producing literature and working to ensure that our name is not misused.
Part of this process involves obtaining licenses or transfers from Noah of certain intellectual property rights involving the book Refuge Recovery, the trademarked name, and the three-jewels logo. We were already working on this in March, but the allegations around Noah created a sense of urgency. The issues are very complex. Over the past few months, our board has consulted with no fewer than four intellectual property attorneys. This is the topic of our next board meeting scheduled for September 9, 2018. Noah will be participating. We see tremendous value in the name recognition that has been built since 2014, and we think that, as long as Noah continues to negotiate with us in good faith, securing rights and protections best serves the interests of our community.
As we move forward, we will continue to keep the community apprised of our activities and do what we can to help this community come together and heal. Toward this end, Jean Tuller, our Executive Director, and Chris Kavanaugh, our Interim Board Chair, hosted two community video conferences last week and we plan to do more of these in the coming months. In addition, our board minutes are available for your review on our website and you can email Jean or Chris directly with any comments or concerns you have. Finally, Refuge Recovery is organized around regions, each of which has elected representatives whose role is to make sure the voices of our local communities are heard, considered, and acted upon. The list of regional representatives is available on our website. We believe that only by keeping the lines of communication open with the community at large can we be of maximum service.
This has been a hard few months. Thankfully, the Dharma and this program teach us how to navigate difficult times and the value of perseverance. We’ve done our best to adhere to these core principles. We will continue our important work, you will continue to inspire us with your selfless service to our thriving community and together we will continue to build a place of Refuge for all.
The Board of Directors of Refuge Recovery
Brent Borreson, Knoxville, Tennessee
Benjamin Flint, Brooklyn, New York
Daniel Fishburn, Asheville, North Carolina
Erin Jensen, Calgary, Alberta
Christopher Kavanaugh, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Dave Larsen, Broomfield, Colorado
Edward Welsh, Portland, Oregon
Rosy Ngo, Brooklyn, New York
Jean E. Tuller, Portland, Oregon
John Tydlaska, Portland, Oregon
Donald Westervelt, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Link to statements: