For Immediate Release Contact: Dan Fefferman August 16, 1999 703-790-1500
The International Coalition for Religious Freedom (ICRF) and several other plaintiffs filed a federal suit against the State of Maryland today for infringing on First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom. The suit seeks to stop the state's "unconstitutional investigation" through its Task Force to Study the Effects of Cult Activities on Public Senior Higher Education Institutions.
"The Unites States has correctly criticized European states for scrutinizing smaller and newer religions through government commissions such as this one," said ICRF executive director Dan Fefferman. "The state of Maryland is engaging in a witch hunt by carrying out a biased inquisition into new religions."
Named as defendants in the suit are the State of Maryland, the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland, Governor Parris Glendening, and task force chairman William Wood.
The defendants stand accused of several charges, including:
"These two United Nations instruments require nondiscrimination, equality before the law, and equal protection of the law for all religions and beliefs, including those which are newly established, non-traditional, and/or originating or based in other countries," says a 19-page complaint filed in Maryland District Court today.
The complaint asks the Court for a declaration that the legislative act creating the Task Force and the actions of the Task Force itself are unconstitutional. It also seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions from further implementation of the Task Force's legislative mandate.
The complaint says the defendants have violated the Constitution by "utilizing government funds, employees, facilities and pronouncements" in
The Task Force was set up as a result of the state legislature's passing House Joint Resolution 22 last year. Fefferman denounced the Task Force as "religious McCarthyism. This is the 90s version of the 50s' Red Scare," he said. "The State of Maryland is looking for a 'cultist' under every college dormitory bed."
Rev. Susan Taylor, President of the Founding Church of Scientology of Washington, DC, added, "Actions like this Task Force occur when government officials fall victim to the propaganda of religious bigots."
Plaintiffs in the case include ICRF, religious freedom advocate Nicholas Miller of the Council on Religious Freedom, humanities professor Lloyd Eby of the University of Maryland's University College, and several other Maryland residents who are either students, parents of students, or employees of the Maryland University System.
More information on the Task Force is available through ICRF's web page at www.religiousfreedom.com. A copy of today's complaint filed in the Maryland District Court is available on request. The International Coalition for Religious Freedom is non-profit, non-sectarian, educational organization dedicated to defending the religious freedom of all, regardless of creed, gender or ethnic origin. ICRF acknowledges with gratitude that, at the current time, it receives the bulk of its funding from institutions and individuals related to the Unification Church community.