Open Letter to the ISKCON Child Protection Office
Posted July 25, 2005
July 24, 2005
Dear Tamohara prabhu,
Hare Krishna. Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to ISKCON Founder Acarya Srila Prabhupada.
As you know, Vakresvara Pandit das, who is both famous and infamous as a kirtan leader and in other roles in ISKCON, was found by an ISKCON Child Protection Office ("CPO") Committee to have been guilty of numerous sexual molestations of a female child over a period of about one year in or around 1993. The finding of guilt was stated in a CPO Official Decision dated July 26, 2002, and was affirmed by a CPO Appeal Panel ("AP") decision dated June 8, 2005. In the state with jurisdiction over these crimes, the sexual molestation of a child constitutes "aggravated sexual assault," and "indecency with a minor," each of which are felonies in the first and second degree, respectively. The criminals who are found by the State to be guilty of these crimes routinely die in prison. The findings of the CPO reveal Vakresvara Pandit das ("VPd") as a sexual "predator," as described by one criminal defense attorney and ISKCON member who was requested by your predecessor to review the CPO findings.
As you also must know, VPd has repeatedly denied the allegations; but directly told the Committee that his responses should not be believed, that he would lie to defend himself. The findings of the Committee revealed that the child victim gave a testimony that withstood a very high degree of scrutiny for truth, while VPd's testimony was obviously constructed of falsehoods. The previously mentioned attorney commented in this regard that, "As a prosecutor, I would take this case to trial and count in large part upon VPd to help convict himself." VPd's failure to honestly repent for his sexual crimes stands as strong evidence that he is a serious danger to ISKCON and its members.
Undoubtedly, you are consciously awaiting the passing of July 26, 2005; as, in spite of the AP having affirmed guilt, they chose to truncate VPd's restrictions in ISKCON so that they terminate on that date. The AP's decision in this regard shows a strong appearance of impropriety, which must be addressed if the ISKCON CPO is to maintain credibility.
In spite of the repeated findings of guilt, the AP (under coercion?) effectively decided that VPd's crimes did not merit any punishment at all, and that there was no need for VPd or various ISKCON leaders to have obeyed the earlier dictates of the CPO. One need only consider the parties representation to see the injustice. VPd was represented by an attorney who is a GBC member (an obvious conflict of interests), while your failure to respond to several requests to identify the victim's attorney indirectly reveals that she had no attorney at all.
The panel's justification for practically negating VPd's punishment, saying that he'd already lived with this decision against him since July 26, 2002, was ridiculous. It is public knowledge that Vakresvara Pandit, and several ISKCON leaders, clearly disobeyed the CPO's prior order. If there was any confusion, it was purposefully created by VPd, as the order clearly stated his responsibility to obey the ruling and to inform the president of every temple he visited of the decision. The panel's statement that it was one incident was also false. The CPO found that the victim was truthful in her claim that, over the course of nearly a year, "We did have sex around seven or eight times;" not one incident. Finally, as you've agreed, there was no legal consent. Indeed, in every state in the USA, the stated so-called "consent" to sex given by a thirteen year old child is legally void; and sex with a child constitutes rape. Tolerance for such rape can only exist far outside the bounds of Vaishnava conduct. Each and every reason stated in the AP's justification for reducing the sentence was false.
While you have admitted that the AP's falsely stating that the child consented to the sex required correction, it does not appear that you have fully considered the ramifications. You cannot simply alter the AP's Official Decision to erase that portion, or any portion of the justifications for reducing VPd's punishment. The only legitimate adjustment of an Official Decision is to treat any conclusions based on known falsehoods as null and void. This is a logical imperative.
This point must be made clear, which I beg you to carefully consider: The responsible authorities both found that guilt was clearly established according to the accepted rules. The AP's negation of the rectification plan, in spite of that guilt, marked "a compromise" (quoting you) between the authorities' findings and those who refused to accept them. That makes clear the weakness of the ISKCON Child Protection Office and sets a precedent wherein the denial of the CPO's authority is an acceptable and effective means of countering its decisions.
The Official Decision of the AP sets a clear precedent with the potential to eliminate virtually all punishment for child molestation, freshly in the wake of a $9.5 million child abuse settlement that bankrupted ISKCON. The world is watching, as is the LORD, and the credibility of the Child Protection Office and of ISKCON is at stake. The armies are beginning to assemble on both sides, and it is time for you to consider whether the Child Protection Office will fight on behalf of the predator or his victim. Please choose wisely. Hare Krishna.