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Woman Won’t Get Damages in Hare Krishna Case With AM-Scotus Rdp, Bjt

October 7, 1991

BOSTON (AP) _ The U.S. Supreme Court has shown the Hare Krishna religion is not a ″newfangled cult″ by its refusal to hear a case Monday of a woman who said she was brainwashed by the group, a Hare Krishna leader said.

The court, without comment, refused to reinstate a $610,000 award won, and then lost, by the Massachusetts woman and her mother who sued the International Society for Krishna Consciousness of New England in 1977.

″Sometimes when someone tries to pull us down, it gives us a chance to speak our message,″ said Carmen Massella, head of congregational development for the Hare Krishnas in New England.

″This shows people we are just a religious institution and not a newfangled cult,″ he said.

Susan Murphy was 13 and living in Randolph in 1971 when she began to explore Hare Krishna beliefs by occasionally attending a Krishna temple in nearby Boston.

Mary Murphy did not learn of her daughter’s interest in the religion until early 1973, when she forbade Susan from visiting the temple.

The girl ran away from home and joined the Hare Krishna religion. After she returned home, she and her mother sued the New England group for the harm allegedly caused by various Hare Krishna members.

In 1987, a state trial jury awarded Susan $210,000 for emotional distress and $30,000 for the Krishnas’ failure to protect her from harm. Her mother was awarded $350,000 for emotional distress and $20,000 for the Krishnas’ intentional interference with her parental rights.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court threw out the awards last May, ruling that the trial ″impermissibly infringed on the defendant’s right to practice its religion freely.″

The court said the Hare Krishnas could not be forced to pay for the alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress, and ordered a new trial on the other claims.

James Frieden, an attorney representing the Murphys, said that asking the high court to hear the case was a longshot request.

Lawyers for the Murphys said the Massachusetts court ruling wrongly exempts religious organizations from generally applicable liability if they intentionally inflict emotional distress through religiously motivated acts.

Their appeal also contended that the state court erred in ruling that appellate courts must independently review the record of all cases involving possible infringements of religious freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

″Religious organizations have no First Amendment right to admit minors to their religious communities without the consent of their parents, and ... any damage thereby suffered by the children or the parents can be recovered in a tort suit, so long as generally applicable requirements for the imposition of tort liability are met,″ the appeal said.

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