Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Falun Gong Is A Religion Under FACE Act

In Zhang v. Chinese Anti-Cult World Alliance, (ED NY, April 23, 2018), a New York federal district court in an 84-page opinion ruled that a group of Falun Gong adherents may proceed on certain of its causes of action against individuals who have engaged in verbal and physical confrontations with plaintiffs.  The court explains:
Adherents of Falun Gong live in the United States. Some are citizens of this country. It is contended by them as plaintiffs that the Chinese Government has conspired with individuals to harm followers and suppress Falun Gong in the United States by organizing and encouraging the Chinese Anti-Cult World Alliance (“CACWA”) and individuals to inflict injuries on those who follow Falun Gong.
Defendants oppose Falun Gong in Flushing, Queens, New York, and elsewhere. They deny that Falun Gong is a religion. Following the position of the Chinese Government, their opposition is based upon characterizing Falun Gong as a “cult” indoctrinating its followers with beliefs that are dangerous, unscientific, and offensive.
One of plaintiffs' claims was brought under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 which allows a civil action by any person who has suffered physical interference with the exercise of the right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship. The court held that for purposes of this statute, Falun Gong is a "religion":
Expert testimony showed that Falun Gong is at its center concerned with ultimate questions of life and the universe. Dr. Waldron explained his view that Falun Gong is derived from Buddhism and other ancient Chinese religions. There is no genuine dispute for purposes of this case: Falun Gong “occupies a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by the orthodox belief in God.” Int’l Soc. For Krishna Consciousness, 650 F.2d at 440 (2d Cir. 1981). Falun Gong is a religion for purposes of the instant litigation. The jury will be so instructed.
Plaintiffs were also allowed to proceed with claims of assault and battery, and bias related intimidation under the New York Civil Rights Act.  Defendants were allowed to move ahead on civil rights and assault and battery counter-claims growing out of the same incidents. New York Law Journal reports on the decision.