Beliefnet
Dallas (RNS) The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is hailing the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking $400 million in damages from its organizations and individuals for alleged child abuse committed over almost two decades at Hare Krishna parochial schools and temples in the United States and India. "Clearly a victory for religious freedom," said David Liberman, an attorney for the society often called ISKCON. "Krishna leaders assert that the suit sought to close temples and seize their assets instead of pursuing and punishing individuals," added a statement issued by ISKCON, known also as the Hare Krishna movement, a monotheistic denomination within the Hindu tradition.

Judge Sam A. Lindsay of the U.S. District Court in Dallas, decided the case, which listed as plaintiffs a group of 94 individuals who attended Hare Krishna boarding schools in California, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and India between 1972 and 1990.

The order to dismiss the personal injury lawsuit regarding the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was filed Friday (Sept. 28).

Dallas attorney Windle Turley, who represented the plaintiffs, was not immediately available for comment.

The order does not question the allegations of child abuse it described as "neglect" and "various forms of sexual, physical, mental and emotional abuse." The order addresses the plaintiffs' petition, filed in June of this year, to group the allegations under RICO's "business property" injury requirement as "lost value of child labor" and "lost value of sufficient education."

Liberman said applying the RICO act targeted "the assets of innocent people and temple congregations," and a favorable ruling "would have opened the door for churches and religious institutions across the country to be attacked in a way never intended by the congressional authors of the RICO law."

A number of religious communities and legal entities filed "friend of the court" documents in the case, urging its dismissal. They included the American Jewish Congress, Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, National Council of Churches and U.S. Catholic Conference.

In 1990, "out of a growing awareness of problems," said ISKCON spokesman Anuttama Dasa, "ISKCON established international policies requiring child protection training and reporting of suspected abuse." In 1998, ISKCON established a Child Protection Office staffed by Krishnas who are field professionals, he said.

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