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The Washington Post on Bankruptcy Filing
Krishna Temples Plan Bankruptcy Filing Over Abuse
[reprinted from the Washington Post. To view the entire article,
About 12 of the nearly 50 Hare Krishna temples in the United States will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month because of a $400 million lawsuit over child abuse at Hare Krishna boarding schools, a spokesman for the movement said yesterday.
The plaintiffs are 91 former students from around the world who allege that they were sexually, physically and emotionally abused at the boarding schools in Southern California, West Virginia and the state of Washington during the 1970s and '80s. All the schools have since shut down.
Although several Roman Catholic dioceses and Protestant churches in the United States have faced devastating litigation over child abuse, this is the first time that a lawsuit "threatens to shut down an entire religion," said Anuttama Dasa, director of communications for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, better known as the Hare Krishna movement.
"We've acknowledged in the past that there was abuse at some of the schools, but we don't believe that innocent members today and our temples should be threatened with closure because of actions by some deviants from the teachings of our movement 20, 30 years ago," he said.
The plaintiffs' attorney, Wendell Turley, declined to comment.
David Liberman, an attorney for the Krishna movement, said he hopes the Chapter 11 procedure will block the lawsuit, help the temples avoid huge legal fees and "enable us to show the plaintiffs that we don't have the money and resources that they think we have." A judgment of even $10 million "would effectively wipe out the assets of all the temples in North America," he said.
Although Liberman added that he believes the Hare Krishna movement could prevail in court, he said it has no interest "in defeating the children who were born and raised in our religion." Rather, he said, the movement wants to use the bankruptcy process to establish "a significant fund" to compensate victims of abuse.
The suit, filed in Texas state court, seeks damages from about 30 people and 18 Krishna-related corporations, including about 12 temples and a few businesses. The businesses include an in-house television studio, ISKCON TV, and a small publishing house, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, which also will file for bankruptcy, Krishna leaders said.
Liberman said that since all Krishna temples are incorporated separately, those named in the suit will file for protection individually in various courts. He said they include temples in Wheeling, W.Va.; Port Royal, Pa.; Seattle; Los Angeles; and San Diego. The temple in Potomac, Md., is among the majority that are unaffected, he said.
The Hare Krishna movement, which was brought from India in 1965, has about 75,000 members in the United States. It is a monotheistic faith within Hindu culture, and its scriptural base is the 5,000-year-old Sanskrit Bhagavad-Gita, or "Song of God."
CHAKRA 14 February 2002
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