Barred from Airport, Hare Krishnas to Spread Message Elsewhere

Washington, March 30 (IANS) The Hare Krishna movement has expressed disappointment over a ban on soliciting donations inside Los Angeles International Airport but said the group plans to continue to spread its message in other public spaces in the United States.

"We are disappointed by the ruling," said Anuttama Dasa, a spokesperson of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) Monday, commenting on the California Supreme Court ruling upholding the airport ban.

"We feel that the court erred in departing from the historical understanding of protected speech, producing an inconsistent view of the First Amendment that may have a chilling effect on freedom of speech generally," he said in a statement issued in Los Angeles.

"While it is unclear whether ISKCON will pursue further legal action, the group plans to continue to spread its message in other public spaces. "We are disappointed," Dasa said. "But not discouraged."

The Los Angeles restriction does allow solicitors to hand out literature and ask for future donations to be sent in the mail. "Such an arrangement would prove practically unfeasible for ISKCON devotees, however, because of the substantial cost involved in printing the books they distribute, such as the Bhagavad-Gita and other full-length Hindu texts," Dasa said.

"This is an unfortunate outcome, but not a major setback," he said. "The airport was one important place for us to get our message out, but there are others. In fact, for decades we have been concentrating our efforts on distributing literature in other ways - including book fairs, cultural events, and the internet.

"We do so because we genuinely believe that the wisdom in these books, including ancient teachings on vegetarianism, karma and mediation can make a positive contribution to people's lives."

ISKCON had filed a suit to challenge a Los Angeles Airport restriction on solicitation by the Krishna devotees and other groups, arguing that the practice of distributing literature and requesting a donation was free speech, historically protected under the First Amendment.

A federal judge ruled in ISKCON's favour, but on appeal the US Circuit Court held that the relevant statute was a state law rather than a federal law and referred the case to the California Supreme Court. The California Supreme Court ruling held that the Los Angeles restriction is constitutional.


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