Court: Hare Krishnas Can't Solicit at LAX

Ban on Seeking Donations Will Apply to Other Groups and Airports as Well after Calif. Supreme Court Ruling

The Associated Press/March 25, 2010

The state high court ended a long-running legal battle Thursday when it barred the Hare Krishnas from soliciting donations at Los Angeles International Airport.

The unanimous ruling written by Justice Carlos Moreno upheld the Los Angeles ordinance barring solicitations as a reasonable security measure to protect harried passengers rushing to make travel connections at the airport known as LAX.

California's other major airports supported Los Angeles' legal position, and the religious group and other organizations will be barred from soliciting donations in California airports.

"Soliciting the immediate receipt of funds at a busy international airport like LAX is particularly problematic," Moreno wrote for the court. "The problems posed by solicitations for the immediate receipt of funds that arise in any public place would be exacerbated in the often crowded and hectic environment of a large international airport."

The Hare Krishnas are still free to preach on airport property and ask passengers to send in donations later. But the group that has been a fixture at the airport since 1974 and was lampooned in the 1980 movie "Airport" is barred from receiving cash and checks on airport property. The ban applies to others groups, too.

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness of California sued in federal court in 1997 when the Los Angeles City Council prohibited the receiving of donations at the city-owned airport. The council later changed the law to allow solicitations in designated areas until the initial federal lawsuit was filed.

U.S. District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall initially ruled in the Hare Krishnas' favor. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asked the California Supreme Court to decide the case because it was a state law rather than federal law being challenged.

The Krishnas' lawyer, David Liberman, said no further appeals appear possible.

"It's pretty conclusive and it doesn't look like there are any loopholes," Liberman said. "As far as I can tell, it's over."

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