Lawyers for a Silver Spring, Md., man seeking his daughter and for the Unification Church both claimed in court today to know the young woman's thinking, but in their opposite accounts of her desires, they agreed only that she is afraid.
By her own written statement to the Manhattan court, Barbara AnnLarson proclaimed her fear that "my father and his hired, armed thugs will kidnap me again."
Lawyers for Louis O. Larson said her fears are of the Rev. Syn Myung Moon's church, which they say has tricked or coerced her.
Barbara Larson, 25, joined the Unification Church more than six years ago, but last October her father and an anti-Moonie group called Freedom of Mind found her and took her away from the church.
According to Gifford Cappellini, a lawyer for Freedom of Mind, the young woman never expressed a desire to return to the church during the almost seven weeks she was with his group a rehabilitation center in Sweet Valley, Pa., which has been established to help people leave groups like the Unification Church.
By Cappellini's account, Barbara Larson's life was pleasant at the centre. She went roller skating, bowling, and had disco dates until one of those dates turned out to be a Unification Church representative sent to take her back. She went with him Dec. 10 and hasn't been seen by her father or Freedom of Mind since.
About a dozen people were in regular contact with her then, Cappellini said, and he doesn't believe they could all have been fooled into believing that she was happy with them if she secretly wanted to find her way back to the Unification Church.
"She somehow was tricked or forced to leave our group," he said. "These people [Moonies] are true victims."
Barbara Larson's own written account, presented by her attorney, Jeremiah Gutman, dwells on fear of her father. There is no mention of bowling or discos.
"It was my father and people he hired who dept me in handcuffs and under guard for 24 hours a day before I escaped," she wrote.
"I have not yet decided where I can live in safety from the harassment and fear of kidnaping by my family and their hired guns," she wrote. "I only want to be free to practice my religion in my own way and I pray for the day when my family will accept that I am an adult with constitutional and legal rights."
Louis Larson sat in the back row of the small state courtroom, pale and quiet. He flinched when reporters tried to ask him questions and was taken out of the court through Judge Alvin F. Klein's chambers in order to avoid photographers.
Judge Klein rejected arguments that Larson's fears entitle her to continue to avoid appearing in court.
"I'm interested in whether this young girl is being restrained by anyone," Klein told the contending lawyers. He ordered her to appear Thursday morning and promised "a full and open hearing" on whom Barbara Anne Larson really fears.