APwv 11/19 1220 Krishnas By ANITA HUSLIN Associated Press Writer JIM THORPE, Pa. (AP) -- T

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APwv 11/19 1220 Krishnas By ANITA HUSLIN Associated Press Writer JIM THORPE, Pa. (AP) -- Thomas Klitsch knows he won't be the most popular man in Carbon County if he sells 400 acres of property to the unorthodox Hare Krishna religious group. But Klitsch said he doesn't do business based on "close-minded prejudices." "I'm not here to play games," Klitsch, a local businessman, said at a news conference Wednesday. "I'm here to sell. I've kept (the property) for three years too long already." Krishna officials said they will meet with central and eastern Pennsylvania followers to decide whether to buy Klitsch's mountaintop resort and convert it into a walled "City of God" to house 12,000 Krishna followers. Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, a religious leader of the sect, said the property was highest on the group's list of possibilities, but he stopped short of announcing the purchase. Klitsch is asking $1.5 million for the property, a restaurant-motel called Flagstaff Mountain Park Resorts that hosted big bands in the 1940s. The resort rises 1,600 feet above sea level and affords an expansive view of Lehigh Valley. "This is number one on our list, in terms of it's up and it's ready to go," Bhaktipada said. Townspeople and local officials gathered at the resort to try and persuade Klitsch not to sell the property to the Krishnas. Some mentioned criminal proceedings against the Krishnas connected with incidents at their commune in New Vrindaban, W.Va., where the sect is based. "I wouldn't want to accuse these people of something they weren't guilty of but I heard how the head of the Krishnas was involved with ... child abuse and downgrading women," said Wesley Hiles of Summit Hill. "I think they should be thoroughly investigated." Klitsch said: "These people have been accused of many things but as long as they're in the U.S. of A., they're innocent until proven guilty." In the past year, a federal investigation has resulted in the principal and a teacher at the West Virginia commune school of being indicted on child molestation charges. In addition, Bhaktipada has been indicted on charges of arson and mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit mail fraud and arson. Another swami, Thomas Drescher, also was named along with Bhaktipada. Drescher was convicted in the death of a Krishna follower and is serving a life sentence in the West Virginia Penitentiary. But Bhaktipada said his group had no plans of bothering residents, trying to convert them or asking for money. He said that he understands people's suspicions of the group. "I think the reason people don't like us is that they don't know us," Bhaktipada said. "When people don't have much contact with us, they don't understand us. We don't intend to bother anyone. We want to live and let live." The Krishnas said they will meet within the next 30 days to decide whether they will make an offer on the property. But Klitsch said if someone makes him a definite offer, he will sell it as soon as possible. In its prime, in the 1940s, the resort attracted the Dorsey Brothers, Fred Waring, Paul Whitman and other big bands to its "Ballroom in the Clouds." A picnic area once offered carnival-type rides. A pavilion, used as a dance hall until 1953, and a restaurant building still stand.


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