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Pasadena Village Responds to Rainbow Flag Burning at Pasadena Buddhist Temple

By Katie Brandon
Posted: 05/31/2023

Members of Pasadena Village made a donation of $500 to the Pasadena Buddhist Temple to defray the cost of replacing the burned PRIDE flag and show solidarity with the community. Pasadena Village members were horrified when they heard the PRIDE flag at the Buddhist Temple was lit on fire and destroyed in April. Pasadena Village’s LGBT group, “Village People,” reached out to Rev. Gregory Gibbs to share their concern that this hate crime happened in our community and to find out what could be done. Wayne April, who is on the board of Pasadena Village and a founding member of Village People — the group at Pasadena Village that supports fellow LGBT aging-in-place older adults — was outraged when he heard about the flag burning and wanted to make a statement of solidarity. On May 18, he organized a visit to the temple and presented the donation with his partner, Jeff Gutstadt, Village staff Katie Brandon and Priyanka Kumar. During the meeting, Rev. Gibbs and the leaders from Pasadena Village shared how both organizations support our community. 

The Pasadena Buddhist Temple belongs to the Jodo Shinshu tradition of Buddhism. Rev. Gibbs shared that this tradition of Buddhism was formed to make the Buddhist path accessible to anyone. He explained that, unlike in other Buddhist traditions, those who visit the Hondo (sacred space) do not remove their shoes because the early followers of Jodo Shinshu were farm workers who would not have the time to take off their boots before services.

The temple in Pasadena was established in 1948 and, since 1958, has welcomed all to come and learn about the Buddha Dharma at its current location. Rev. Gibbs shared how the temple has worked to overcome racism and serve its community through the years. Recently, members of the Pasadena Buddhist Temple formed Ichi-Mi “to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals, their family members, and allies to create conditions for everyone to safely hear the Nembtsu teaching.” Nembutsu means to contemplate the Buddha. 

Rev. Gibbs stated, “It is very heartening to know the leaders in our community have our backs. Our temple leadership has supported the LGBTQ+ community and will continue to welcome and support them. Even after this act of ‘hate,’ we will not be intimidated by the actions of people who are not able to accept others as individuals. As Buddhists, we try to be compassionate, non-judgmental, and inclusive.”

Executive Director Katie Brandon stated, “Just like Pasadena Buddhist Temple, Pasadena Village is about building community and creating an inclusive environment for all. I am so grateful that the Village People stood up in such a generous way to show that there is no room for hate crimes and intolerance in our neighborhoods.” Village members were already aware of the principles guiding the Pasadena Buddhist Temple, as Pasadena Village co-hosted a vaccine clinic with Home Instead-Pasadena and the Pasadena Health Department at the temple last year. This act of solidarity is one example of how neighbors were able to build on a partnership between a local organization and faith community, and therefore strengthen the entire Pasadena community.

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