APwv 08/15 0032 Krishna Discrimination
By RAY FORMANEK Jr. Associated Press Writer
NEW VRINDABAN, W.Va. (AP) -- The state Human Rights Commission says it will
hear a Hare Krishna devotee's complaint that Marshall County Prosecutor Thomas
White is discriminating against the religion.
"I think it's very good that this matter is being looked into," Umapati
Swami, the Krishna minister who filed the complaint, said Friday. "I think the
people of this county ought to know the kind of people they have in office."
The Human Rights Commission has scheduled an October hearing on the
Umapati said he filed the complaint after his request for a state minister's
license, required to perform marriage ceremonies and other religious duties,
"Instead of issuing the license, the county clerk turned my application over
to the prosecutor," Umapati said. "The prosecuting attorney does not normally
get involved in such matters.
"The only reason he did is because he and the county clerk are disciminating
against my religion."
White has denied the allegations and said he is waiting for a member of the
Governing Board Commission of the International Society of Krishna
Consciousness to certify that Umapati is a minister.
But the Krishna devotee said that certification may never come because
ISKCON disassociated itself from the New Vrindaban encampment -- the largest
Krishna community in the United States -- after accusing its spiritual leader,
Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, of violating the tenets of the religion.
"My point is that ministers of other religions are not subject to this,"
Umapati said during an interview at the settlement where he is a spiritual
leader. "What right do they have to ask a totally different church if I'm
certified or not?
"We are a legally separate church and registered as such by the state."
The Human Rights Commission hearing is scheduled for Oct. 14 at the Marshall
County Courthouse, according to a letter signed by Howard D. Kenney, the
commission's executive director.
"I have received the notice of the hearing but have not had a chance to
examine it," White said. "We are continuing to review the matter."
Kenney was in Bluefield attending the state's NAACP convention and not
available for comment. According to the hearing notice, White has 10 days from
the time he received the letter to respond to the charges. If no reply is made,
the allegations may be assumed to be valid.
Marshall Moss, a spokesman for the commission, said that a hearing officer
and a member of the human rights commission will hear evidence presented at the
hearing and decide whether Umapati was discriminated against for his religious
The commission will then decide what remedy, if any, is in order.
Moss said that White or Umapati may appeal any decision made by the
comission to the state Supreme Court.