APor 12/11 0537 Moonie Suit
By BOB EGELKO Associated Press Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A case involving the Rev. Sun Myung
Moon's Unification Church may determine whether controversial
church recruiting methods can be the subject of damage suits by
disillusioned ex-members, or are protected from court scrutiny by
the constitutional freedom of religion.
The clash between claims of religious freedom and mind control
in Moon's church was played out before the state Supreme Court
Thursday in a security-conscious courtroom.
"We can't have any freedom of religion if we don't have
freedom of thought," said attorney Stanley Lea, father of one of
three ex-Moonies who claim they were brainwashed into joining the
church and working for it.
"There is no evidence of physical restraint, violence, force
or threat of force," countered the church's lawyer, Kenneth Ross.
"Before they joined, they knew it was the Unification Church."
Spectators, who nearly filled the courtroom, had to pass
through a metal detector, which is used for all cases but was set
more sensitively than usual because of the nature of this case,
said court spokeswoman Lynn Holton.
At the start of the argument, an unidentified man in the
audience stood, began chanting, and pulled balloons and teabags
out of a pink plastic bag and tossed them in the air. He was led
away by security guards.
Leal's daughter, Tracy, then 19, was stopping in San Francisco
on her way to visit Humboldt State University when she was
recruited. Another plaintiff, David Molko, was a 27-year-old
lawyer from Pennsylvania, recently arrived in San Francisco. The
third, Barbara Dole, 19, was recruited on the University of
California at Berkeley campus.
All three said they were approached by people who said they
were part of the Creative Community Project and invited them to a
meeting. The recruiters denied any religious affiliation when
questioned by Molko.
The three said they were talked into going to a remote church
encampment. By the time they learned of Moon's involvement and
joined the church, they said, they had been thoroughly
indoctrinated and their will to resist was gone.
After several months of raising money for the church, Molko
and Ms. Leal were abducted and "deprogrammed." Ms. Dole said
she raised $300,000 for the church in five years before leaving
Their fraud suits were dismissed in Superior Court. In
upholding the dismissal, the 1st District Court of Appeal said
that however objectionable a church's recruiting tactics may
seem, the Constitution prevents a court from inquiring into "the
spiritual nature of its hold on its members."