Chakra Discussions

ISKCON cannot refuse former felons

by Prabhupad das Adhikari
Former ISKCON member, 1971-1983

Posted June 25, 2004

Regarding the statement of Anuttama das Adhikari ("Kirtanananda Swami's Release from Prison"), if Kirtanananda das has done his time in jail and is free under US law I don't think ISKCON can ban him from attending programs where the general public is invited. If the US penal code has released him, he has paid for his crime and is now a free citizen.

Why would ISKCON want to ban him for crimes already mitigated by the US penal system? Is there a new GBC-promulgated law stating that, if a person commits a crime and pays for it by incarceration, he is forever condemned for that crime, unforgiven, and permanently banned from access to the Deity in the Temple?

If this is the case what is the meaning of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and other Brahman qualities? Is the daily worship Tulasi brahma hatya dikane ca just a series of meaningless sounds to be parroted every day? If ISKCON thinks he has performed other crimes then he must be arrested, arraigned and released on bail before he is banned from attending a Temple program. And, after he has served time for that, he would be legally free again, and able to enter a Temple without prejudice.

If he decides to enter an ISKCON temple and is thrown out or 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. If he behaves nicely, there is no ground for ejection.

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. The choice to file suit would further drain ISKCON's financial resources and ISKCON would, I believe, certainly lose.