Business Wire, Apr. 29, 2003 (Press Release)
LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–April 29, 2003–Eleven temples of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), are publishing legal notice April 30, 2003 in international newspapers, magazines and websites in an effort to contact any parties having claims against them, including any students who may have been abused in Krishna boarding schools in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
The publication is part of a Chapter 11 Reorganization Plan to be submitted to Federal Bankruptcy Courts in West Virginia and California, on behalf of the eleven ISKCON corporations, which originally filed for Chapter 11 protection in March 2002.
In June 2000, 91 plaintiffs in Dallas, Texas, filed a $400 million lawsuit against the temples and several individuals. The suit was dismissed by U.S. Federal Court in September 2001 but was again filed in Texas State Court in October 2001. The temples claim that the damages sought by the plaintiffs are greater than the collective assets of the temples and individuals named in the suit, and would destroy their religious communities.
”The suit threatens to close places of worship and punish innocent families that had nothing to do with these allegations,” said Anuttama Dasa, ISKCON spokesperson. “Through Chapter 11, we hope to balance the legitimate needs of any of our young people that may have been abused, while protecting the rights of our members and families to maintain a place of worship,” Dasa said.
In addition to protecting the temples during the reorganization process, one of the primary purposes of the Chapter 11 is to ascertain the extent of the claims against the temples, including abuse claims, and to provide a procedure for processing them.
An unusual feature of the reorganization plan is to provide compensation for youth that may have been abused but who chose to not sue. The Chapter 11 plan that the temples will submit to the court will provide for payments to any young person who may have suffered abuse — whether or not they are part of the Texas suit.
”We are working on reorganization plans that will provide meaningful compensation for anyone found to have a valid claim,” said David Liberman, ISKCON’s general counsel. “The judge will determine the capacity of these temples to pay based on the Court’s analysis of their assets, and not on the whims of an inflamed or biased jury. We believe this is the fairest solution.”
Sanford L. Frey, ISKCON bankruptcy counsel, added, “Another unusual goal of the Chapter 11 is to provide an orderly, cost-effective method of ascertaining legitimate claims so that more proceeds are provided to legitimate claimants, rather than for legal fees resulting from time-consuming litigation.”
In 1990, the ISKCON Governing Body Commission established ecclesiastical policies mandating abuse prevention training and the reporting of allegations of abuse to government authorities. In 1996, an independent organization, Children of Krishna, was formed to provide grants for counseling and education for Krishna youth.
In 1998, a professionally staffed Child Protection Office was established to investigate allegations of abuse, provide grants for youth who may have been abused, and to assure the ongoing protection of Krishna children.
ISKCON, or the Hare Krishna movement, is part of the ancient Vaishnava, or monotheistic religious tradition within Hindu culture. The Krishna tradition was brought to the west in 1965 by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who founded the first ISKCON temple in New York City.
CONTACT: International Society for Krishna Consciousness
David Liberman, 310/277-9288
Sandy Frey, 310/277-7400
Anuttama Dasa, 301/299-9707