Hare Krishna Couple Take Discrimination Case to Federal Court

March 15, 2002

Source: The Buffalo News

On March 15, 2002, The Buffalo News reported that "the New York Civil Liberties Union on Thursday announced its intention to file a federal lawsuit in April over the 'malicious prosecution' of Stephen and Linda Voith, Krishna Bhaktivedanta followers who... are accused of illegally housing... animals within village limits... [The Voiths] maintain the animals they keep on their 3-acre homesite in the village are an integral part of their religion... Krishna Bhaktivedanta is an offshoot of Krishna Consciousness, a Hindu-based faith whose followers are known to many in this country as Hare Krishna. The Voiths say cows and bulls are central participants in their religious ceremonies... The announcement comes two days after Allegany County Court... upheld the conviction of Stephen Voith on charges he violated a village ordinance restricting farm animals within the village limits. He was also found guilty of violating a village noise ordinance... 'There seems to be overwhelming evidence of (malicious prosecution),' said Jeanne-Noel Mahoney, executive director of the NYCLU's western district office in Buffalo. 'The courts keep sidestepping the issue of their religion, as if this doesn't have anything to do with this, but it quite obviously does,' she said... Linda Voith said she was disappointed at losing the appeal but 'overjoyed' at hearing that the NYCLU plans to join their legal battle... 'They've told me this case has a lot of potential for setting precedents, and it's been very validating having them agree with our strong conviction that this is a situation of religious discrimination and equal protection under the law.'"