CHAPTER 1: General Provisions
Soka Gakkai International – USA (“SGI-USA”) is a religious organization that practices Nichiren Buddhism. SGI-USA is recognized as a church under the Internal Revenue Code for tax purposes. SGI-USA exists to:
- Deepen the faith of its members, thereby realizing their happiness;
- Expand its membership and circle of influence through the propagation of Nichiren Buddhism; and
- Contribute to the realization of world peace and the advancement of human culture and education based on the philosophy and ideals of Nichiren Buddhism.
SGI-USA is a member of the constituency of organizations that make up the Soka Gakkai International (“SGI”), which embraces the fundamental aim and mission of contributing to peace, culture and education based on the philosophy and ideals of Nichiren Buddhism.
SGI-USA is organized with a representative form of decision-making. While the General Director is considered the chief executive of the organization, dialogue and consensus-building are the bases of our decision-making process.
The national organization is made up of three geographically defined territories: West, Central, and East territories.
Each Territory is divided into Zones, Regions, Chapters and Districts. The District is considered the front-line level of SGI-USA and is the measure of SGI-USA’s health and the focus of our organizational growth. Districts may be further subdivided into Groups and Units, but the District remains the focal point for members’ growth and development.
This charter can only be modified or amended by the Executive Council, and such amendments shall take effect upon their official announcement by the General Director.
CHAPTER 2: The Executive Council
SGI-USA has an Executive Council, which is its highest decision-making body.
The Executive Council shall consist of 14 to 18 members.
The members of the Executive Council shall be selected as follows:
- 2 to 3 representatives of the SGI, designated by the SGI Headquarters;
- The General Director shall be an ex-officio, non-voting member; and
- The remaining 10 to 15 Executive Council members shall be nominated by the General Director from among outstanding members who have experience in faith, good character, wisdom, the ability to give guidance and an understanding of the principles of Nichiren Buddhism. The nominations shall be ratified by the SGI.
The term of the members of the Executive Council shall be a three-year staggered term. Each year, the terms of approximately one-third of the Executive Council members will expire.
Executive Council members shall not serve concurrently on the Council or the Central Executive Committee. No more than one-third of the members of the highest corporate board of directors shall be Executive Council members.
The Executive Council shall:
- Affirm the yearly activity goals of this organization as presented by the Central Executive Committee;
- Approve the corporate directors of the highest corporation as nominated by the General Director;
- Approve the General Director and General Director Emeriti;
- Determine whether the General Director is unable to fulfill his or her duties or has regained the ability to fulfill his or her duties.
- Approve the appointments of the National Men’s, Women’s, Youth, Young Men’s, and Young Women’s Division Leaders (not including Vice Leaders), as nominated by the General Director. The National Leaders of the respective divisions shall be appointed for a term to expire concurrently with the General Director’s term;
- Discuss and decide any modifications to this charter; and
- Discuss and decide any other items deemed necessary by the General Director or the Executive Advisor.
The SGI Headquarters shall select the Chairperson of the Executive Council. The Chairperson will preside over meetings and be responsible for the orderly conduct of meetings. The SGI Headquarters may select one or more Vice Chairpersons, who shall support the Chairperson in carrying out his or her duties.
A meeting of the Executive Council must be held annually or upon the request of any Executive Council member or the Executive Advisor.
Three-fourths of the members of the Executive Council must be present to hold a meeting, including at least one SGI representative.
For the purposes of ascertaining a quorum, “present” includes participation in-person or by live video or audio conference.
Since dialogue is crucial for consensus-building, any Executive Council member who is not present may not vote by proxy or by specific written authorization to another member.
Matters before the Executive Council shall be decided by a consensus of the members present at a duly held meeting at which a quorum is present. In the event consensus is not reached, then matters shall be decided by a vote of unanimity minus two.
CHAPTER 3: The Council
SGI-USA has a Council, whose purpose is to offer insight and advice to the General Director and Executive Council on the overall direction of SGI-USA.
The Council shall consist of the Zone-level Men’s and Women’s Division Leaders from each Zone in SGI-USA (not including Vice Leaders). In the event a Zone has an appointed 4-divisional Zone Leader, then the 4-divisional Zone Leader shall also be on the Council.
The Council will meet with the General Director and Executive Council annually to offer insight and advice on the overall direction of this organization. The Council will also receive reports from the General Director regarding the activities of this organization and from the Executive Council.
CHAPTER 4: The Central Executive Committee
SGI-USA has a Central Executive Committee, which is a decision-making body whose purpose is to execute the important duties of the organization.
The Central Executive Committee shall consist of the following:
General Director Emeriti
Men's Division Leader
Youth Division Leader
Young Women's Div. Leader
East Territory MD Leader
East Territory YMD Leader
Central Territory Leader
Central Territory WD Leader
Central Territory YWD Leader
West Territory MD Leader
West Territory YMD Leader
Women's Division Leader
Young Men's Division Leader
East Territory Leader
East Territory WD Leader
East Territory YWD Leader
Central Territory MD Leader
Central Territory YMD Leader
West Territory Leader
West Territory WD Leader
West Territory YWD Leader
- One National Vice Leader from each of the Men's, Women's, Youth, Young Men's and Young Women's Divisions, respectively, approved by the General Director. The term of these additional Central Executive Committee members shall be one (1) year;
- One National Future Division Leader and two National Student Division Leaders, approved by the General Director. The term of these additional Central Executive Committee members shall be one (1) year; and
- Up to four Senior Vice General Directors or Vice General Directors, approved by the General Director. The term of these additional Central Executive Committee members shall be one (1) year.
The Central Executive Committee shall discuss and decide the following items:
- SGI-USA organizational and personnel matters;
- The establishment of any systems, procedures and subcommittees necessary for the execution of its duties; and
- Items that the General Director or the Executive Advisor deem necessary.
The General Director shall serve as the Chairperson of the Central Executive Committee.
In principle, a meeting of the Central Executive Committee shall be convened once every three months by the General Director. In addition, the General Director may convene a meeting whenever he or she deems it necessary.
Two-thirds of the members of the Central Executive Committee must be present to duly hold a meeting.
For the purposes of ascertaining a quorum, “present” includes participation in-person or by live video or audio conference.
Since dialogue is crucial for consensus-building, a Central Executive Committee member who is not present may not vote by proxy or by specific written authorization to another member.
Matters before the Committee shall be decided by a majority vote of the members present.
Upon approval by the Central Executive Committee, SGI-USA may have one or more Departments to encourage members of a common group or specific interest. Examples include, but are not limited to, the Culture Department, Arts Department, Study Department, Peace and Community Relations Department, Lecturers Department, and the National Language Bureau.
The national leaders of the respective Departments shall be appointed by the Central Executive Committee. Within each Department, further subgroups may be made upon approval by the Central Executive Committee.
CHAPTER 5: General Director
The General Director shall be approved and appointed by the Executive Council for a three-year term.
Should the General Director be unable to fulfill his or her duties, the Executive Council shall appoint an Interim General Director to serve as General Director for the remainder of the vacated three-year term, or until the General Director is able to resume his or her duties.
SGI-USA may award the title of General Director Emeritus or Emerita upon approval by the Executive Council. The title is honorific and carries no independent decision-making rights or responsibilities.
SGI-USA may have one or more Executive Advisors and/or Advisors who are appointed by the SGI Headquarters, whose length of term shall be determined by the SGI Headquarters.
The Executive Advisor(s) gives general advice about the affairs of this organization for the sake of its development.
To accomplish the duties described above, the Executive Advisor(s) can attend any meetings or conferences.
The Advisor(s) shall assist in carrying out the duties of the Executive Advisor(s) and may attend meetings on his or her behalf.
CHAPTER 6: Vice General Directors
SGI-USA may have one or more Senior Vice General Directors and/or Vice General Directors.
They shall assist the General Director with responsibilities delegated to them by the General Director.
The Senior Vice General Directors and Vice General Directors shall be appointed (or removed) by the General Director with the advice and consent of the Executive Council. The appointment will expire concurrently with the term of the General Director.
CHAPTER 7: Leaders
Leaders at every level of the organization function to further the mission of SGI-USA in helping members deepen their faith in Nichiren Buddhism. Specific rules, conduct, and guidelines for leaders are found in the separate document entitled SGI-USA Leadership Manual.
Unless otherwise stated in these rules, the term of the leaders at all levels of the organization may be set by the Central Executive Committee.
Until a successor is appointed, approved or ratified, as required, the term of a position may be extended, even after expiration of the term.
Persons who have been appointed to a position with a specified term may be appointed to additional terms.
Persons who have positions set forth in this document may be removed for cause, by following the procedure found in the SGI-USA Leadership Manual.
CHAPTER 8: Members
Members of SGI-USA are practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism and supporters of SGI-USA who have officially joined the organization. Complete details on becoming a member of SGI-USA are contained in the latest version of the SGI-USA Leadership Manual.
Membership in SGI-USA is classified according to a four-divisional system: Men’s Division, Women’s Division, Young Men’s Division, and Young Women’s Division. The Central Executive Committee may set a maximum age limit for classification as Young Men’s or Young Women’s members.
Each Member will receive an official certificate confirming his or her membership status at an SGI-USA Membership Ceremony, Gohonzon Conferral Ceremony or other event.
Nothing in this section confers a right, legal or otherwise, for anyone to be a member of SGI-USA.
SGI-USA may formally and publicly commend those who contribute to its development and set good examples for other members.
By becoming a member of SGI-USA, an individual agrees to sincerely practice Nichiren Buddhism; follow the guidance of the Soka Gakkai International; and observe the rules and regulations established by SGI-USA.
An individual who believes in Nichiren Buddhism and who wishes to join SGI-USA may become a member of SGI-USA by submitting a Gohonzon Application Form to the District Organization nearest to the residence of the prospective member [Applicants who are minors must submit the application with the signature of their parent or legal guardian].
Once the form has been reviewed and approved, the prospective member will be officially welcomed to the organization at a Membership Ceremony or other appropriate SGI-USA event, where he or she will receive a Gohonzon and membership certificate.
CHAPTER 9: Voluntary Termination of Membership
Voluntary Termination- any individual may submit a notification of termination of membership in writing. Termination of membership shall be effective upon receipt of the notification by the organization.
An individual whose membership has been voluntarily terminated may apply for reinstatement at any time under the same process as individuals joining SGI-USA for the first time.
CHAPTER 10: Involuntary Termination of Membership and Other Disciplinary Action
Involuntary Termination- a member may be involuntarily terminated from SGI-USA membership due to serious misconduct, as outlined in this section.
SGI-USA exists to enable all members to correctly learn and practice Nichiren Buddhism and apply it in their daily lives for spiritual growth and fulfillment.
Conduct which violates this pure intent may result in disciplinary action up to and including involuntary termination of membership. Specific examples of conduct subject to discipline include, but are not limited to:
- Taking advantage of other members for a financial purpose;
- Conduct intended to either 1) damage the reputation of SGI-USA or 2) harm or undermine the interests of SGI-USA;
- Conduct which is disruptive to the harmonious unity of SGI-USA, including spreading false or disparaging information about the organization, its leaders or members, and/or failing to correct misunderstanding among the membership caused by him or her;
- Conduct which negatively impacts the faith of members;
- Physical or verbal abuse and/or harassment; and
- Conduct of a sexual nature without consent.
The purpose of disciplinary proceedings is to encourage sincere self-reflection on the part of the member in question and to preserve the sincere faith of members and the harmonious unity of SGI-USA.
In the event disciplinary actions are considered or requested, the local Region Personnel Committee is responsible for addressing the misconduct, including:
- Investigate matters related to the conduct in question, including interviewing the member under investigation as well as other affected individuals; gathering supporting documentation; and evaluating the situation overall. During the investigation, the Region Personnel Committee may instruct the member to refrain from participating in organizational activities until the investigation is complete.
- Submit a written report of the results and conclusion of its investigation, including its decision as to what action should be taken, to the Zone Personnel Committee.
- In addition to involuntary termination, the Zone Personnel Committee has the discretion to consider the following lesser measures--
- Written reprimand
- Exclusion from specific SGI-USA activities
- Prohibition against attending conferences at FNCC
- Exclusion from attending activities at SGI-USA Centers
- Exclusion from attending local organizational activities
- Suspension of SGI-USA membership, as defined below
- Suspension of Membership. Membership may be suspended for a specific length of time, up to one year. During the suspension period, the member is excluded from any and all SGI-USA activities, wherever conducted. At the end of the suspension period, the Zone Personnel Committee shall review and decide whether to lift the suspension or continue it, based on a demonstrated change of behavior. If the suspension is not lifted, then the suspension will continue indefinitely until the suspended member requests reinstatement, at which time the Zone Personnel Committee shall review it again.
The Region Personnel Committee may stop the investigation at any stage of the proceedings and immediately recommend disciplinary action if, in its judgment, the member in question is evasive, combative, uncooperative, or continuing to engage in inappropriate conduct.
A member has the right to submit a written request for an appeal of the Zone Personnel Committee’s decision to the Territory Personnel Committee.
Unless the Territory Personnel Committee determines that further investigation or consideration is warranted, the decision shall be final.
Notice of disciplinary action shall be communicated to the affected organizational leaders and members as appropriate.
No termination of membership, for any reason, shall confer the right to demand the return or refund of any property, real or personal, cash or in-kind, previously donated to SGI-USA.
Any member whose membership has been involuntarily terminated shall have his or her name removed from SGI-USA membership lists and is excluded from any and all activities of SGI-USA, wherever conducted. The person’s subscription to SGI-USA publications will also be canceled, and the person will be prohibited from making financial contributions to SGI-USA.
This charter was adopted by the SGI-USA Executive Council on October 24, 2009.