APnj 11/17 0444 PA-Krishna ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- The founder of a Hare Krishna sect think

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APnj 11/17 0444 PA-Krishna ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) -- The founder of a Hare Krishna sect thinking of building a walled "City of God" in the Lehigh Valley area took his search for a site to Flagstaff Mountain Park in Jim Thorpe during the weekend. "I was favorably impressed with the property," Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada told the Allentown Morning Call. The 425-acre mountaintop site in Carbon County is being considered for a walled city that would be modeled after the palace-like Hare Krishna headquarters at New Vrindaban, near Wheeling, W.Va. Representatives of the swami have been looking for properties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They have said they are looking for a site within a 50-mile radius of Allentown. "We're looking for a scenic area," Bhaktipada said. "An area with good accessibility and a good area for tourism." He explained he realized that "people object to being tapped on the shoulder in the airport and on street corners" and that he is "trying to do something attractive and have people come to me." This strategy was used when Bhaktipada, who founded the New Vrindaban community in the late 1960s, built the first walled city in West Virginia in 1979. A Krishna delegation also Sunday visited Whitehall Township in the search for a location for the walled city. The group also is looking for sites in the Trenton, N.J., area. The New Vrindaban complex includes lakes, sculptured gardens and wild animal sanctuaries, as well as the Palace of Gold which has a 2 1/2-ton dome with 24-karat gold ornamental work. Bhaktipada said his sect "is not in the money-making business." Building a City of God, he said, "is a means of reaching the public with my message." His sect, which is one of several Krishna groups in the United States, is dedicated to a lifestyle that includes a regimen of no meat, no illicit sex, no intoxication and no gambling. It has come under criticism for alleged unequal treatment of women, and one of its leaders has been convicted of murdering a fellow Krishna devotee. Although he maintains his innocence, Bhaktipada is under federal indictment for arson and mail fraud. Bhaktipada said he does not routinely visit all possible locations, but happened to be in the area and decided to visit Flagstaff. "This property was recommended to me quite highly," he said. "I was passing through on other preaching engagements so I took the opportunity to look at it." His representatives will meet with the owners of the site on Wednesday. Once a suitable site is found, Bhaktipada said, a meeting of members in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania area would be called. "If they are interested in having a City of God in the area, ... a place for weekend retreats, spiritual enlightenment ... it's up to them," Bhaktipada said. Thomas Klitsch, the owner of Flagstaff, said eight or nine people from the religious sect were at the park for about 2 1/2 hours Sunday morning. Flagstaff includes a large ballroom, a lounge and restaurant. Klitsch said the Krishnas will be back at Flagstaff on Wednesday afternoon for an interview with a Philadelphia television station. Klitsch said the representatives left Flagstaff around noon Sunday for Philadelphia and West Virginia.


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