Religious Organizations Can Control Who Enters Their Property
Posted July 2, 2004
Prabhupada dasa Adhikari's article about ISKCON's prohibition of Kirtanananda Swami from visiting ISKCON temples ("Kirtananda Release") not only questions the wisdom of the prohibition, but also appears to question its legality. Prabhupada dasa writes:
"If he [Kirtanananda] decides to enter an ISKCON temple and is thrown out or in anyway abused he has the full weight of the US legal system on his side. The only way ISKCON can remove him is for disruptive behavior at the time of his presence."
In another article, entitled "ISKCON cannot refuse former felons," Prabhupada dasa asserts:
"If ISKCON wishes to control access to the Temple on any point chosen, it must become a private organization that issues membership, like a private country club. So long as ISKCON remains a 501c3 religious organization supported by public contributions, it cannot bar entry to public programs for any cause other than misbehavior at the time of presence."
Prabhupada dasa is mistaken about the law. No law requires a religious corporation holding public services to allow anyone and everyone to attend. A religious organization or a nonprofit corporation has at least as much right to prevent unwanted persons from tresspassing on its private property as any private corporation or individual has.
This is not to say, of course, that any tresspasser can or should be "abused," in the sense of being physically assaulted. If an authorized temple officer requests someone to leave and that person refuses to do so, then the local police should be contacted so that the situation can be resolved without any breach of the peace.
As for the reasons for prohibiting Kirtanananda from attending ISKCON temples in North America, Prabhupada dasa does not really address the reasons given in Anuttama dasa's article on behalf of the Executive Officers of the ISKCON North American Temple Presidents and GBC, entitled "Kitananda's [sic.] Release from Prison." Anuttama cites a 1987 GBC resolution and Kirtanananda's failure to comply with a 2000 decision by ISKCON's Child Protection Office. Obviously, the prohibition on Kirtanananda is not part of an accross-the-board ban on convicted felons, as suggested by Prabhupada dasa.
I do not want to address Prabhupada dasa's opinions about the state of ISKCON and its leadership other than to say that in my personal experience ISKCON continues to be a vital mission that is doing great good by promulgating the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and the practice of Krishna consciousness throughout the world.
Akruranatha dasa (Adam R. Bernstein)
Law Offices of Adam R. Bernstein