UC Law Journal


In 1981, the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers, acting through their religious corporations, purchased 64,229 acres in rural Oregon. On this land they hope to realize their "religious vision" by creating a unique religious community dedicated to the teachings of Rajneeshism. The Rajneeshees have attained that dream by incorporating two thousand of those acres as Rajneeshpuram, an Oregon municipality. The one thing that potentially can obstruct this dream is the establishment clause of the first amendment. Because the land ownership scheme and corporate holdings in Rajneeshpuram place the City in the actual control of an organized religion, the constitutional "wall" separating church and state has been weakened. This Note first explores whether the state's incorporation of Rajneeshpuram and its distribution of state funds to the City violate the establishment clause of the first amendment. It next analyzes the free exercise implications raised by a denial of municipal status and state funds to Rajneeshpuram. Finally, the Note weighs the free exercise concerns against the establishment clause challenges and concludes that Rajneeshpuram's municipal status violates the first amendment.

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