Wild Wild History: The Rise and Fall of Rajneeshpuram

The U.S. District Court of Oregon Historical Society and the Oregon Historical Society are proud to present the latest in USDCHS’s Famous Cases lecture series.  Join us for this historic program, Thursday June 27, at 7:00 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 1126 SW Park Ave, in downtown Portland.  The event is sponsored in part by Perkins Coie LLP.

Tickets are on sale now. USDCHS members receive a discounted rate of $20 per ticket (no fees), up to four tickets. Become a member today if you would like to receive a discount code prior to purchasing tickets.

Program: Leading advocates on both sides of the Rajneeshpuram episode will address issues that continue to reverberate today. Three speakers made prominent appearances in the highly acclaimed Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country. The discussion will be moderated by Oregon Supreme Court Justice Tom Balmer. Speakers are:

  • Philip Toelkes (a.k.a. Swami Prem Niren), attorney for the Rajneesh
  • Robert Weaver, assistant U.S. attorney at the time and lead federal prosecutor
  • William Gary was Oregon Deputy Attorney General, assisting AG Dave Frohnmayer on matters related to Rajneeshpuram
  • U.S. Magistrate Judge John Jelderks who presided over a number of the state court legal proceedings

Background: In 1981, the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, his personal assistant Ma Anand Sheela, and their community of followers purchased the Big Muddy Ranch near the tiny Oregon town of Antelope. The ranch soon became the City of Rajneeshpuram, a center of activity as the Bhagwan began building a utopian city dedicated to dynamic spiritual meditation, New Age healing and a progressive approach to sexuality. The ambitious experiment soon ignited great concern among the citizens of Antelope as well as among state and federal officials. The resulting legal and cultural controversies – many of them caused or exacerbated by supporters of the Bhagwan – played out in state and national media and in state and federal courtrooms. In the end, prosecutors charged more than thirty members of the Rajneeshpuram community with immigration violations or more serious crimes – attempted murder, racketeering, arson, burglary, assault, conspiracy and illegal electronic surveillance. In 1985, the Bhagwan pleaded guilty to immigration fraud and was deported from the United States.

CLE Credit: USDCHS has applied for 2 hours of general CLE credit with the Oregon State Bar.  To receive credit, please be sure to select the “Attorney-CLE credit” pricing option when purchasing tickets.

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