Rajneeshees charge U. S. government trying to oust them

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The followers of an Indian guru who operates a 5,000-member commune in rural central Oregon charged in a court suit that federal officials are trying to run them out of the United States.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court Monday by the followers of guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh charged the guru and his followers were the target of a government conspiracy to oust them and their religion from the country.


Named as defendants are Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Attorney General Edwin Meese, the State Department, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and other federal agencies accused of spying on the group.

'Rajneeshees will never be pressured to leave, nor will we tolerate the same persecution and nonsense from the government that is put on the blacks, Indians, Mormons and other minorities,' said guru spokeswoman Ma Anand Sheela.

'No one has had the guts to believe me or believe the fact that there is a conspiracy to drive Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Rajneeshees and the religion of Rajneeshism out of this country,' Sheela said. 'But I have evidence straight from the government which will convince any intelligent person.'


Sheela, president of Rajneesh Foundation International, and 11 other plaintiffs accused the agencies and officials of engaging in a 'religous-based discriminatory program of unlawful and intrusive monitoring, surveillance and purported 'investigation' of the Rajneeshees.'

The goverment has been conducting investigations to determine the residency status of the guru and other followers who have moved to their central Oregon ranch-commune during the past four years. About 5,000 disciples of the guru are estimated to live at the commune.

The plaintiffs asked the court to prevent the government from intruding into the religious beliefs and practices of plaintiffs and other Rajneeshees, from singling them out for selective prosecution and scrutiny and from 'entering onto private property where plaintiffs and other Rajneeshees reside without consent'.

Sheela also claimed she had been informed by the U.S. attorney's office that she and the guru will be indicted by a grand jury later this month. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney denied that his office gave such information to her.

Carl Houseman, district director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, declined to comment on the suit.

The group asked the court to give the suit class-action status on behalf of all Rajneeshees.

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