APor 12/11 0537 Moonie Suit By BOB EGELKO Associated Press Writer SAN FRANCISCO (AP) --

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

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 voluntarily. 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."


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank