APn 10/18 0335 Moonie Lawsuit By BOB EGELKO Associated Press Writer SAN FRANCISCO (AP

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APn 10/18 0335 Moonie Lawsuit By BOB EGELKO Associated Press Writer SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Former "Moonies" can sue the Unification Church for alleged deception and brainwashing because freedom of religion does not protect fraudulent recruiting, the state Supreme Court said in reinstating two suits. A lawyer for the National Council of Churches called Monday's 6-1 ruling "a real blow" to freedom of religion. "The challenge here ... is not to the church's teachings or to the validity of a religious conversion," said Justice Stanley Mosk in the decision. "The challenge is to the church's practice of misrepresenting or concealing its identity in order to bring unsuspecting outsiders into its highly structured environment. That practice is not itself belief -- it is conduct subject to regulation for the protection of society." Reversing two lower court rulings, the high court decided that two former church members who brought their cases could seek to convince a jury that they had been brainwashed and were unable to exercise independent judgment when they joined the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's church after being told of its identity. In dissent, Appeals Court Presiding Justice Carl Anderson, assigned to the Supreme Court for the case, said religious conversion -- whether or not it involves "brainwashing" -- is constitutionally protected from court scrutiny. "`Brainwashing' and religious conversion are not really distinguishable," Anderson said, noting there were no claims of force or threatened violence in the case. Kenneth Ross, a lawyer for the church, said he would recommend an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lawyers for the plaintiffs, whose lawsuits had been rejected in San Francisco Superior Court and a state appellate court, hailed the ruling. The court recognized "the rights of people who have been exploited by the dishonest and unethical practice of religion," said Ford Greene, lawyer for David Molko. "Until this case was decided, cults had taken the position that they could do whatever they chose to do with respect to deception and fraud in their recruitment activities and claim that they were immune from responsibility by virtue of the First Amendment," said Stanley Leal, attorney for his daughter, Tracy. But Kathleen Purcell, a lawyer for the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. and the National Council of Churches who filed written arguments supporting the Unification Church, called the ruling "a real blow to both free exercise of religion and the separation of church and state." She said it was the first ruling of its kind by any state's high court. Ms. Leal, now 28 and studying for a teaching credential at San Jose State University, was a 19-year-old college student when a recruiter approached her at a San Francisco bus station in 1979. A few months earlier, Molko, a 27-year-old Pennsylvania lawyer newly arrived in San Francisco, also was recruited at a bus stop. Both said the recruiters denied any church affiliation, instead claimed membership in the Creative Community Project, and invited them to dinner. Soon afterward, they said, they were taken to a retreat and subjected to intensive lectures, discussions and exercise. Molko said he was not told of the Moon affiliation for 12 days, and Ms. Leal for 22 days. Both remained church members for several months before they were abducted by "deprogrammers" hired by their parents, the court said. Their lawsuits sought damages from the church for emotional distress and punitive damages. Molko also sought return of his $6,000 he donated to the church.

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