1978 – Morningland files suit against city

Religious freedom, due process violations charged by cult

SAN DIEGO – A lawsuit charging violations of constitutional protections of religious freedom and due process has been filed against the Escondido City Council and several city employees by Morningland.

The religious cult, with temples in Escondido and Long Beach, has charged that the council acted improperly in directing an investigation of Morningland in answer to citizen complaints at an April 5 council session – especially without seeking response from Morningland.

The suit seeks an injunction against the continuance of alleged public and private unconstitutional action against Morningland, plus damages.

Edward L. Masry and Andrew M. Zanger, Los Angeles attorneys representing Morningland also have included three police officials, three fire officials, a building official and a planning official in the suit. A private citizens’ group also is named.

Masry said at a San Diego news conference this morning that Morningland would “unequivocally withdraw the litigation if the Escondido City Council affords Morningland the opportunity to be heard from and rectifies its former resolution.”

The damages sought are any amount more than $10,000, the minimum amount that would qualify the case under federal jurisdiction.

Police, fire, and other Escondido city officials – including Police Chief Jim Connole and Fire Chief Louis Whyte – are charged with unjustifiably harassing Morningland through inspections and code enforcement procedures.

The private group of citizens named composed part of the crowd that complained to the council earlier this month.

Sri Patricia, wife of Donato, who, Morningland claimed, was the reincarnation of Jesus, is the leader of the metaphysical-religious cult. She said that this resort to the judicial system is unusual for Morningland, which is committed to “oneness, truth and harmony.”

She said [hard to decipher from text] the action is intended to draw out the truth under oath.

Councilman Jerry Harmon of Escondido, who attended the news conference, said that the calling of the media for public presentation of the suit without previous contact with the city about Morningland’s concerns seems to indicate the group’s desire for publicity.

He said he hopes the council will wait until the investigation is completed to determine if there might be any substance to charges made that Morningland uses mind control and manipulation to disrupt the lives of some disciples.

Other charges against Morningland on the public record include claiming medical cures without proper credentials and counseling without credentials.

City Manager Ken Lounsbery of Escondido said Wednesday night that he will advise all departments to “continue business as usual,” including all except “unwarranted investigations.”

He said such civil rights suits are common tools as signals for public agencies to “back off.”