A New York State Supreme Court judge has dismissed "mind control" indictments against the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Krishna seet on grounds that the charges were "a direct and blutant violation of the defendants' First Amendment rights.
"The entire and basic Issue before this court," Judge John J. Leshy ruled "Thursday, "is whether or not the two alleged victims is this case and the defendants will be allowed to practice the religion of their choice - and this must be answered with a resounding affirmative."
The case involving the Hare Krishna temple in Manhatten drew national attention because it was the first attempt to bring criminal charges of "brainwashing" against unconventional religious sects.
"The freedom of religion is not to be abridged because it is unconventional in its beliefs and practices or because it is approved or disapproved of by the mainstream of society or more conventional religions," the judge stated.
Leahy's opinion was cited Friday in a San Francisco trial in which parents are seeking legal sanction to "deprogram" their children from allegiance to the Rev. Sun Myung Meon's Unification Church.
This case is also gaining widespread interest because it is the first known trial on the issue of whether parents - who claim their adult children are "brainwashed" into joining unconventional cults - can obtain temporary legal custody to have them "deprogramed."
Temporary custody and mental incompentency proceedings by parents against adult children in unconventional cults have become so frequent in recent months that the American Civil Liberties Union's national board has vowed to fight these practices.
In the New York case, Merylee Kreshower, 24, a Hare Krishna member, asked the Queens district attorney last August to bring kidnapping charges against her mother, who had hired a private detective to seize the girl in order to "deprogram her from the sect.
However, a grand jury turned the tabies on the complaint and instead indicted the sect for using "mind control" to hold Kreshner and 22-year-old Ed Shapire against their will, Indicted were the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc.; Angus Murphy, president of the movement's temple in Manhatten, and temple supervisor Harold Conley.
Murphy was also charged with attemped grand larceny for allgedly persuading Shapire to demand $20,000 from his father, Dr. Eli shapiro of Boston. The money was left to young Shapire by his late mother but was in his father's custody.
After the indictments, Kreshower and Shapiro were taken into custody as material witnesses and confined initially to a Queens motel in lieu of $50,000 bail each. They contacted ACLU attorneys.
A short time later, Shapiro's father obtained an imcompetency certificate in Massachusetts and had his son spirited out of New York and confined against his will in a Massachusetts mental hospital. After two weeks, psychiatrists said he was mentally competent.
Kreshower and Shapiro told the grand jury they were happy in the sect and did not want to leave.
Leahy declared that the Hare Krishna movement, which claims about 2,000 followers in the United States, was a "bona fide religion with roots in India that go back thousands of years."
Dismissing all the indictments, he said "any (such) attempt, be it circuitous, direct or well-intentioned or not, presents a clear and present danger to this most fundamental, basic and eternally needed right of our citizens - freedom of religion."
On the allegation of brainwashing, he said: "It appears to the court that the people rest their case on an erroneous minor premise to arrive at a fallacious conclusion. The record is devoid of one specific allegation of a mispresentation or an act of deception on the of the part of any defendant."