APn 03/02 1336 Krishna Children Copyright, 1988. The Associated Press. All rights reserved

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APn 03/02 1336 Krishna Children Copyright, 1988. The Associated Press. All rights reserved. By PAIGE St. JOHN Associated Press Writer CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Children at a Hare Krishna commune have been subjected to sexual abuse and forced into communal marriages, according a court petition filed by a former sect member seeking custody of her children. The petition was filed with the state Supreme Court, which gave no immediate answer Tuesday to the appeal by Christina Mills, a former Hare Krishna member who claims her children are in danger at the religious sect's West Virginia commune. Mills alleges that New Vrindaban, the nation's largest Krishna community, is fraught with polygamy, child molestation and sexual abuse, her lawyer told the court Tuesday. Mills, now a legal secretary in San Antonio, Texas, is asking the high court to remove her three children, ages 2, 3 and 6, from their father's care at New Vrindaban. "These children have no protection today but in this court," lawyer David Gold told justices. The northern West Virginia community is the target of several federal and state investigations. A family law master had ruled that the children were in jeopardy at the commune, but a circuit judge stayed that order at the request of the children's father, Dennis Gorrick. Mills is appealing that stay. Gorrick's attorney, James Lees, said the family law master has issued a gag order on the case and he could not discuss it. Members of the commune have faced criminal charges, including murder and manslaughter charges against fringe members of the commune, and child molestation charges against two former commune teachers. The sect's leader, Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, recently was found innocent of arson charges, although another commune member was convicted in the case. The Krishnas have denied any wrongdoing and have accused authorities of harassment. Mills' petitions make a broad range of allegations against the Krishna community. Gorrick "has been simultaneously `married' to the petitioner and other women, said marriages being ordered by the swami," according to the petition. Children at New Vrindaban "have been subject to sexual abuse by the very teachers entrusted with their safety and well-being. Said abuse includes the repeated and systematic oral and anal homosexual rape of school children at said school by the headmaster," according to the court petition. "Parents who have confronted the swami about said sexual abuse have been advised by said swami that, `sex is sex,"' the petition states. "Authorities at (New Vrindaban) regularly contribute to the delinquency of minors, by forcing girls ... to drop out of school and marry ... as young as the age of 12 years," the petition states. Gorrick, whom Mills calls the commune's chief fund-raiser, "has directly caused or contributed" to the alleged practice of using commune children as young as 11 to solicit donations, according to the petition.

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