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Md. Task Force Called Inquisition

August 17, 1999

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A Maryland task force studying religious cults on college campuses is violating constitutional rights and conducting a ``religious inquisition,″ according to a lawsuit filed by Seventh-day Adventists and Unification Church members.

The suit, filed Monday, alleges that the state General Assembly has ``determined that it is both unnecessary and harmful for students to think for themselves.″

The plaintiffs, which include the International Coalition for Religious Freedom, funded primarily by Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, claim the Task Force to Study the Effects of Cult Activities on Public Senior Higher Education Institutions is violating the establishment and free-exercise clauses of the First Amendment.

``The government cannot, absolutely cannot, get involved in adjudicating what’s a right religion and what’s a wrong religion,″ said Kendrick Moxon, a Los Angeles civil rights attorney representing the plaintiffs.

The suit seeks an injunction against the task force, as well as a declaration that the inquiry is unconstitutional.

William Wood, chairman of the task force, denied that it targeted religious groups.

The task force was created last year in response to the Heavens Gate mass suicide in California, several cult-motivated murders and a subway-gassing incident in Japan.

``College students are particularly vulnerable to cult recruitment because they are often grappling with becoming independent, overwhelmed with new responsibilities and relationships, adjusting to new environments and anxious about their futures,″ according to the resolution.

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