A US Judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking $400 million dollars in damages from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
Bhaktivedanta Manor devotees have welcomed the move by Judge Sam A. Lindsay of the United States District Court in Dallas to dismiss a lawsuit seeking $400 million dollars in damages from the temples, organisations and individuals affiliated with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKON).
The group, better known as the Hare Krishna movement, had the suit filed against them in June last year following allegations of child abuse in the 1970's and 1980's at several schools and temples affiliated to ISKCON.
The case attempted to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to corral allegations of abuse at several schools into one Federal case.
However, Krishna leaders assert that the suit sought to close temples and seize their assets, instead of pursuing and punishing those deviant individuals who may have been abusive of children.
Spokesperson for ISKON member, Bhaktivedanta Manor, Bimal Krishna Das, said: "When this law suit came about we were very surprised and saddened. We don't deny these incidents have taken place, but we have 430 centres across the world and it's not acceptable to punish all the centres because of the actions of individual's in certain sections.
"We have spoken to the victims involved and have brought in measures to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again. We believe the victims of child abuse should prosecute the perpetrators. However, I think it will be hard for them to do this now because the incidents took place over 20 years ago."
Religious organizations including the National Council of Churches, the United States Catholic Conference, the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, and the American Jewish Congress supported the stance ISKON took on the RICO claim.
"This was clearly a victory for religious freedom," said David Liberman, one of the attorneys for ISKCON defendants. "The plaintiff's attorney disingenuously sought to apply the RICO act in a attempt to go after the assets of innocent people and temple congregations. This effort would have opened the door for churches and religious institutions across the country to be attacked in a way never intended by the Congressional authors of the RICO law."
Anuttama Dasa, ISKCON's Director of Communications issued statement: "The decision will protect innocent families whose temples were threatened with closure by this overreaching suit. At the same time, we remain committed to assure the safety of our children and will continue to reach out proactively to help any young person who may have suffered in the past," he said.
ISKCON policies mandate immediate reporting of any allegations of abuse to government authorities. An independent organization, Children of Krishna, was formed in 1996 to provide grants for education and counselling for Krishna youth. In 1998, a professionally staffed Child Protection Office (CPO) was established to investigate all allegations of abuse, to provide assistance for youth, and to assure that Krishna communities comply with requirements for child safety and abuse prevention.
Bhaktivedanta Manor will be celebrating Diwali on Sunday 18 November.