ISKCON the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has settled out of court its seventeen-year legal battle with Robin George and her mother, Marcia. Though the terms of the agreement are not to be disclosed, we consider them excellent. And the six American Hare Krsna temples the case had threatened to shut down are now free and clear.
In 1974, Robin George, then fifteen, ran away from home and lived in ISKCON temples for about a year. Two years later, Robin and Marcia sued ISKCON. The devotees, they charged, had brainwashed Robin into running away. They had "mentally kidnapped" her, distressing her mother and causing mortal grief to her father.
A California jury tore into ISKCON with a $32 million judgment. The judge reduced it to $9 million. Courts of Appeal threw out the charge of brainwashing and cut the judgment to $485,000 (nearly $1 million, counting interest).
In the course of the battle, ISKCON had brought its case as far as the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had sent the case back down and both sides were girding themselves for the next round, in the court where the case had begun.
But rather than keep spending to continue the fight, both sides found it wiser to reach an agreement.
There were those who had hoped that the Georges' $32-million verdict would bring the death of ISKCON. We're delighted to have disappointed them.
With this test behind us, ISKCON is clearly in America to stay.
We've sent a clear message: We're not an easy hit. We don't give up. For the service of Krsna, we'll fight all the way to the Supreme Court. And win.
On every legal point of precedential value, we prevailed. Preaching is not brainwashing. Chanting is not mind control. Vegetarianism is not food deprivation. Hare Krsna is not Dracula.
In the course of our struggles, we found friends. Sympathizers donated generously, scholars came forward to testify for us, Hindu leaders spoke out on our behalf. Even leading Christian and Jewish organizations came forward, recognizing that to safeguard their own rights they need to stand up for ours.
For the Hare Krsna movement in America, still young in the early 70's, the George case has been part of our growing up. When the case began, we were still barely past the generational upheavals of the hippy era. "Don't trust anyone over thirty" still fresh in our minds, we could shield a fifteen-year-old from her parents without thought of the consequences. Now many of us are grandparents. Do we trust people under thirty? Sure. But if you're still a kid and you want to join our temple, we'll ask you for a note from mom and dad.
Finally, we've become stronger spiritually. Living under the constant threat that ISKCON could literally be sued out of existence, we had no alternative but to stand together in Krsna consciousness and depend on Krsna.
And now, by Krsna's grace, we're free. A burden we've borne for seventeen years is off our backs. Now ISKCON in America is ready to move forward.
And what have the Georges learned? We don't know. As they travel on in their sojourn from each lifetime to the next, we wish them well.