SGI-USA Charter

CHAPTER 1: General Provisions

Article 1

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:
  1. Deepen the faith of its members, thereby realizing their happiness;
  2. Expand its membership and circle of influence through the propagation of Nichiren Buddhism; and
  3. Contribute to the realization of world peace and the advancement of human culture and education based on the philosophy and ideals of Nichiren Buddhism.

Article 2

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.

Article 3

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.

Article 4

The national organization is made up of three geographically defined territories: West, Central, and East territories.
SGI-USA Territories Map

Article 5

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.

Article 6

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

Article 7

SGI-USA has an Executive Council, which is its highest decision-making body.

Article 8

The Executive Council shall consist of 14 to 18 members.

Article 9

The members of the Executive Council shall be selected as follows:
  1. 2 to 3 representatives of the SGI, designated by the SGI Headquarters;
  2. The General Director shall be an ex-officio, non-voting member; and
  3. The remaining 10 to 15 Executive Council members shall be nominated by a nominating committee consisting of the General Director, Executive Advisor(s), Advisor(s), Men's Leader, and Women's Leader 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.

Article 10

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.

Article 11

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 SGI-USA Corporate Board of Directors shall be Executive Council members.

Article 12

The Executive Council shall:
  1. Affirm the yearly activity goals of this organization as presented by the Central Executive Committee;
  2. 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;
  3. Approve the appointment of the Council, as nominated by the nominating committee defined in Article 9(c) above;
  4. Discuss and decide any modifications to this charter; and
  5. Discuss and decide any other items deemed necessary by the General Director or the Executive Advisor.

Article 13

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.

Article 14

A meeting of the Executive Council must be held annually or upon the request of any Executive Council member or the Executive Advisor.

Article 15

Three-fourths of the members of the Executive Council must be present to hold a meeting, including at least one SGI representative.

Article 16

For the purposes of ascertaining a quorum, "present" includes participation in-person or by live video or audio conference.

Article 17

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.

Article 18

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

Article 19

SGI-USA has a Council, which is a decision-making body whose purpose is to offer insight and advice to the General Director and Executive Council on the overall direction of SGI-USA.

Article 20

The Council shall consist of members nominated by the nominating committee defined in Article 9(c) above and approved by the Executive Council.

Article 21

The members of the Council shall be nominated 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.

Article 22

The term of the members of the Council shall be a three-year staggered term. Each year approximately one-third of the Council members shall have their terms expire.

Article 23

The Council shall:
  1. Approve the Directors of the corporation as nominated by the General Director;
  2. Nominate the General Director and General Director Emeriti; and
  3. Determine whether the General Director is unable to fulfill his or her duties or has regained the ability to fulfill his or her duties.

Article 24

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.

Article 25

The Executive Council shall designate the Chairperson of the Council. The Chairperson will preside over meetings and be responsible for the orderly conduct of meetings. The Executive Council may select one or more Vice Chairpersons, who shall support the Chairperson in carrying out his or her duties.

Article 26

A meeting of the Council must be held upon the request of the Executive Council, General Director, Executive Advisor, or one-third of the members of the Council.

Article 27

Two-thirds of the members of the Council must be present to hold a meeting or vote.

Article 28

For the purposes of ascertaining a quorum, "present" includes participation in-person or by live video or audio conference.

Article 29

Since dialogue is crucial for consensus-building, a Council member who is not present may not vote by proxy or by specific written authorization to another member.

Article 30

Matters before the Council shall be decided by a majority vote of the members present at a duly held meeting at which a quorum is present; provided, however, that the nomination of the General Director, General Director Emeritus, and Interim General Director (when necessary) requires an affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of the Council members present.

Article 30.1

Council Advisory Board.
SGI-USA shall have a Council Advisory Board to assist the Council in carrying out its advisory function to the General Director and Executive Council.

Article 30.2

The Council Advisory Board shall meet annually with the Council members, but it shall have no decision-making responsibilities.

Article 30.3

The Council Advisory Board shall consist of former Executive Council or Council members who have been nominated by the nominating committee defined in Article 9(c) above and approved by the Executive Council.

Article 30.4

The term of the members of the Council Advisory Board shall be a three-year staggered term. Each year approximately one-third of the Council members shall have their terms expire.

CHAPTER 4: The Central Executive Committee

Article 31

SGI-USA has a Central Executive Committee, which is a decision-making body whose purpose is to execute the important duties of the organization.

Article 32

The Central Executive Committee shall consist of the following:

  1. General Director
    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
    General Director Emeriti
    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
  2. One National Vice Leader from the Men's and Women's Divisions who shall be nominated by the Men's Leader and Women's Leader (respectively) and approved by the General Director. The term of these two Central Executive Committee members shall be one (1) year;
  3. Up to six additional Central Executive Committee members appointed by the General Director from among members of any division who currently hold national leadership positions within the Youth Division or its subdivisions/activity groups. The term of these additional Central Executive Committee members shall be one (1) year; and
  4. Up to two additional Central Executive Committee members appointed by the General Director from among the Senior Vice General Directors or Vice General Directors. The term of these additional Central Executive Committee members shall be one (1) year.

Article 33

The Central Executive Committee shall discuss and decide the following items:
  1. SGI-USA organizational and personnel matters;
  2. The establishment of any systems, procedures and subcommittees necessary for the execution of its duties; and
  3. Items that the General Director or the Executive Advisor deem necessary.

Article 34

The General Director shall serve as the Chairperson of the Central Executive Committee.

Article 35

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.

Article 36

Two-thirds of the members of the Central Executive Committee must be present to duly hold a meeting.

Article 37

For the purposes of ascertaining a quorum, "present" includes participation in-person or by live video or audio conference.

Article 38

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.

Article 39

Matters before the Committee shall be decided by a majority vote of the members present.

Article 40

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.

Article 41

The national leaders of the respective Departments shall be appointed by the Central Executive Committee. Within each Department, further sub-groups may be made upon approval by the Central Executive Committee.

CHAPTER 5: General Director

Article 42

The General Director shall be nominated by the Council and ratified by the SGI Headquarters for a three-year term.

Article 43

Should the General Director be unable to fulfill his or her duties, the Council shall nominate an Interim General Director, pending approval from the SGI Headquarters. Once approval is received, the interim General Director shall officially 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.

Article 44

SGI-USA may award the title of General Director Emeritus or Emerita upon nomination by the Council and approval by the SGI Headquarters. The title is honorific and carries no independent decision-making rights or responsibilities.

Article 45

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.

Article 46

The Executive Advisor(s) gives general advice about the affairs of this organization for the sake of its development.

Article 47

To accomplish the duties described in Article 46 above, the Executive Advisor(s) can attend any meetings or conferences.

Article 48

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

Article 49

SGI-USA may have one or more Senior Vice General Directors and/or Vice General Directors.

Article 50

They shall assist the General Director with responsibilities delegated to them by the General Director.

Article 51

The Senior Vice General Directors and Vice General Directors shall be appointed (or removed) by the General Director from among members of the Executive Council and Council with the advice and consent of the Nominating Committee. The appointment will expire concurrently with the term of the General Director.

CHAPTER 7: Ministers of Ceremony

Article 52

Ministers of Ceremony administer the ceremonies, rites and services of this organization.

Article 53

The General Director, Executive Advisor(s), Advisor(s), Men's Leader and Women's Leader are by rule considered Ministers of Ceremony.

Article 54

In order to efficiently carry out the duties of the Ministers of Ceremony, and upon the recommendation of the Territory Leaders, the General Director may appoint additional Ministers of Ceremony from among the members of the Men's and Women's Division for a time period that expires concurrently with the General Director's term. However, the General Director may revoke an individual's commission at any time at his or her sole discretion.

Article 55

Each Minister will receive an official certificate confirming his/her appointment as an SGI-USA Minister of Ceremony. Ministers of Ceremony shall administer and preside over the ceremonies, rites and services of this organization as described in a separate document entitled "Provisions for Ministers of Ceremony."

CHAPTER 8: Leaders

Article 56

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.

Article 57

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.

Article 58

Until a successor is appointed, approved or ratified, as required, the term of a position may be extended, even after expiration of the term.

Article 59

Persons who have been appointed to a position with a specified term may be appointed to additional terms.

Article 60

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 9: Members

Article 61

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.

Article 62

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.

Article 63

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.

Article 64

Nothing in this section confers a right, legal or otherwise, for anyone to be a member of SGI-USA.

Article 65

SGI-USA may formally and publicly commend those who contribute to its development and set good examples for other members.

Article 66

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.

Article 67

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].

Article 68

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 10: Voluntary Termination of Membership

Article 69

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.

Article 70

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 11: Involuntary Termination of Membership

Article 71

Involuntary Termination- a member may be involuntarily terminated from SGI-USA membership due to serious misconduct, as outlined in this section. Note: if the member in question is a current or former leader in the organization, then the above steps are superseded by the procedure found in the SGI-USA Leadership Manual, which outlines procedures for dealing with leader misconduct.

Article 72

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.

Article 73

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:
  1. Taking advantage of other members for a financial purpose;
  2. Conduct intended to either 1) damage the reputation of SGI-USA or 2) harm or undermine the interests of SGI-USA;
  3. 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;
  4. Conduct which negatively impacts the faith of members;
  5. Physical or verbal abuse and/or harassment; and
  6. Conduct of a sexual nature without consent.

Article 74

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.

Article 75

In the event disciplinary actions are considered or requested, the local Region Personnel Committee will be responsible for addressing the misconduct, including:
  1. 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;
  2. 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; and
  3. In addition to considering involuntary termination, the Zone Personnel Committee has the discretion to consider lesser measures, such as official reprimand, exclusion from specific SGI-USA activities, or suspension of membership for a period of less than one year.

Article 76

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.

Article 77

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.

Article 78

Unless the Territory Personnel Committee determines that further investigation or consideration is warranted, the decision shall be final.

Article 79

Notice of disciplinary action shall be communicated to the affected organizational leaders and members as appropriate.

Article 80

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.

Article 81

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.

Article 82

An individual whose membership has been involuntarily terminated may apply for reinstatement no earlier than one year after the involuntary termination by communicating this request to the Region Personnel Committee.

This charter was adopted by the SGI-USA Executive Council on October 24, 2009.

Record of Amendments

  1. This charter was amended by the SGI-USA Executive Council on July 26, 2011 to create the Council Advisory Board (Chapter 3, Articles 30.1 to 30.4)
  2. This charter was amended by the SGI-USA Executive Council on October 22, 2011 to enable the General Director to appoint up to six additional CEC members for a one-year term (Chapter 4, Article 32 (c)).
  3. This charter was amended by the SGI-USA Executive Council on May 22, 2012 to remove the Area level from the national organizational structure (Chapter 1, Article 5).
  4. This charter was amended by the SGI-USA Executive Council on September 28, 2013 to enable the General Director to appoint up to two additional CEC members from among the Vice General Directors or Senior Vice General Directors for a one-year term (Chapter 4, Article 32 (d)).