APnj 12/04 1357 PA-Krishnas JIM THORPE, Pa. -- A member of the Hare Krishna sect has threa
APnj 12/04 1357 PA-Krishnas
JIM THORPE, Pa. -- A member of the Hare Krishna sect has threatened suit
against state Sen. James A. Rhoades for trying to prevent the Krishnas from
building a walled "City of God" in Jim Thorpe.
Vishvaretah-das, whose secular name is William Henry, said Thursday actions
aimed at blocking the proposed land purchase violate the group's civil rights.
Meanwhile, a land-use lawyer recently hired by the Jim Thorpe Borough
Council asked borough residents Thursday night not to make any statements that
might be considered discriminatory to any group or religious organization.
"I beg you -- cool it," Lenard Wolffe of Philadelphia told about 50 people
who gathered in Jim Thorpe's Memorial Hall. "I ask you to exercise the maximum
in restraint and shut up."
Wolffe specifically asked residents not to pressure local officials by
writing petitions or sending letters, saying such actions would only cause
legal troubles for borough officials.
In a prepared statement, Krishna operations officer Vishvaretah-das said the
sect, which is based in New Vrindaban, W.Va., will fight any attempts to block
land purchases by the Krishna sect.
Vishvaretah-das said Rhoades and others have participated in "two years of
trumped up harassment" of the group.
"We are actively pursuing all litigation options to determine the viability
to sue for genocide against the Hare Krishnas and conspiracy ... to violate
civil and First Amendment rights," Vishvaretah-das said.
Last month, the Krishnas said they are considering the 400-acre Flagstaff
Moutain Park as a possible site for a walled city for 12,000 people. At the
time, the Krishnas said they would make a decision within 30 days.
Since that announcement numerous public officials and private investors have
been trying to come up with ways to block a sale to the group.
Later in November, Rhoades and state Rep. Keith McCall, said they would like
to turn the landmark into a state park, a move that would make it impossible
for the sect to build the city.
McCall introduced a bill this week in the House that would provide $1.2
million in state money to purchase Flagstaff. Rhoades said he would help push
the bill through the Senate.
Vishvaretah-das called the attempt a violation of the group's First
Amendment rights. He singled out Rhoades, stating that the senator is
attempting to use taxpayers' money to block a possible sale of Flagstaff
Mountain to the Krishnas.
Regarding the sect's intentions to purchase the land, Rhoades has said, "My
attitude is: If they want to see how a redneck fights, watch me."
Vishvaretah-das said it was Rhoades' comments that led to last Saturday's
arrival of a Ku Klux Klan group in Jim Thorpe. Five white-hooded members of the
KKK, who said they were from nearby Schuylkill County, held the rally vowing to
"keep the cow-worshipers" from purchasing Flagstaff.
"The KKK said that they were incited to march by the words of Sen. Rhoades,"
Rhoades said of the KKK rally, "I don't know who those Klan people are, and
I extended no invitation to anyone to join in the fight to save Flagstaff. I
will do as much as I can to keep Flagstaff as Flagstaff."
Thursday night, Wolffe said a resolution passed by the council Wednesday
night will prohibit any group from challenging the borough's zoning ordinances
for 180 days and may also be used to prohibit new building in the borough for
The Borough Council Wednesday night voted to research the borough's zoning
ordinance after "portions were found invalid."
On Wednesday, a group of potential investors met in Jim Thorpe and said they
will continue their efforts to purchase Flagstaff.
Carol Meeker, an organizer of the investment group, said the purpose of the
group is to purchase Flagstaff and not to discriminate against any groups from
buying Flagstaff. She said stopping the Krishnas from purchasing Flagstaff
would be "a byproduct" if the group is successful.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank