Judge dismisses most lawsuits in TM rift

An effort by several Heavenly Mountain homeowners to stop changes at the development known for its ties with Transcendental Meditation (TM) suffered a major blow last week.

Superior Court Judge Ronald Payne dismissed a lawsuit filed by more than 20 homeowners against the Spiritual Center of America, its board chairman Earl Kaplan and a similar suit against Heavenly Mountain Resorts Inc. and its president, David Kaplan.

Although the center and Earl have been removed from one suit, David still faces the first action, which claims the homeowners bought land and homes at Heavenly Mountain with the understanding that the Spiritual Center would continue to offer “a spiritual presence that permeates the entire residential development, bringing special benefits to the homeowners.”

The plaintiffs claimed the Spiritual Center and the brothers breached a fiduciary duty. The twin brothers — both former supporters and major donors of the TM movement, recently repudiated the belief system founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Both Kaplans and the Spiritual Center’s board said the lawsuit failed to state a claim against Earl because it never specifically named him. The Kaplans’ and center’s attorneys argued in a motion to dismiss that no contract for special spiritual benefits ever existed and that the plaintiff’s failure to bring a breach-of-contract action proved one never existed.

Transcendental Meditation

“Transcendental Meditation was ruled a religion by the United States District Court, District of New Jersey, Docket No. 76-341 (H.C.M.) Civil Action, in the case of Alan B. Malnak. et al., Plaintiffs, v. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, et al., Defendants, in a summary judgment issued October 19, 1977, followed by an order and judgment, filed December 12, 1977.”
Is TM a religion?

If the homeowners win the suit against David Kaplan, the court could appoint a special receiver for the non-profit center who would stop the “persons controlling it from engaging in conduct inconsistent with its purposes,” according to the homeowners’ complaint. This would presumably allow the center to continue operating as a TM facility.

Earl Kaplan stated last week (see related story) the center would soon be open to other religious faiths and spiritual belief systems. A tentative trial date has been set for July.

In a similar case, Payne dismissed a complaint by the homeowners against David Kaplan and Heavenly Mountain Resort, Inc. with similar claims, specifically that the developer breached his fiduciary duty and required potential land buyers to donate to the TM movement “as a condition to building a home in Heavenly Mountain.”

The suit accused Kaplan of “endangering the tax status of the center and thereby acting contrary to its well-being by causing it to engage in private benefit transactions” in alleged violation of the federal tax code.

At the core of the lawsuits is the practice of TM.

The homeowners claim they bought land and houses at Heavenly Mountain because they believed it would be centered around the spiritual practice.

“Each family has made a large investment in the community here and feels the promises made to them should be honored, namely, that this would be a permanent home for the TM programs and knowledge. We expect to get what we paid for,” a spokesperson for the group stated earlier.

In a motion to dismiss, Kaplan’s attorney’s argued each land purchaser agreed to the terms of their initial purchase contract and that each purchaser entered into it without relying on any other written or oral statements by anyone else.

The dismissal motion contends the developer never made a promise in the land contracts that Heavenly Mountain would always be centered around TM.

Recently, David Kaplan announced plans to develop the area in what he called a “normal development, not a TM development.” He also announced plans for a golf course.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Watauga Democrat, USA
June 11, 2004
Jason Reagan

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday June 11, 2004.
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