B'nai B'rith the world's oldest Jewish service group, has been accused of practicing what it preaches against -- religious defamation.
The charge comes from leaders of the Hare Krishna movement, which has been portrayed in recent B'nai B'rith literature as a "menace" that instills in its members "fear of and hatred for the outside world -- including their families."
The Krishnas found especially offensive a B'nai B'rith pamphlet lumping their organization with "cults."
Entitled. "Are They Really Religions?", the pamplets says in part: "Hidden behind the tranquil fascade of the new 'religious' movements rests a real threat to freedom.
"These movements revolve around allegiance to a leader with absolute power within the group -- unlimited power to do good or evil. . ."
The pamplet includes anti-cult statements allegedly made by a former Krishna and by ex-members of other groups that regard themselves as bona fide religious organizations. Lawmakers, parents of so-called cult members, and mental health experts also have their go at the Krishnas and others in the pamphlet.
"We regard this as an outrage," said J. Eliot Israel (Jayadavaita Swami), senior editor of "Back to Godhead," the Krishna magazine.
"When all you do is quote former members of a group, people with sour grapes; when all you do is quote so-called experts who have not studied our religion and who do not believe in it, you are using the most base form of rabblerrousing."
Israel, who said his movement "represents a geniune religious tradition with a history going back thousands of years," used his magazine to demand an apology from B'nai B'rith.
He got none.
However, B'nai B'rith leaders denied they had intended to defame the Krishnas' religion.
"We don't see 'cult' as a term of defamation," said Rabbi Irwin Blank, director of B'nai B'rith Aduit Jewish Education Commission. The commission houses B'nai B'rith's "Cults Project," aimed at dissuading Jewish youth from joining new, self-avowed religious movements.