The Oracle Institute

Oracle Interfaith Retreat Center Lawsuit

Trial Settled on December 13, 2011

On June 10, 2010, the Board of Supervisors of Grayson County, Virginia denied Oracle’s special use permit to build the Peace Pentagon, even though it had been unanimously approved by the Planning Commission. The Board ambiguously stated that the project was contrary to the “health and welfare of County residents.” But the truth is that the permit was denied after preachers and members of more than a dozen local Christian churches accused Oracle of being a “cult” and called founder, Laura George, a “heretic” and “communist.”

Thereafter, Oracle sought the assistance of The Rutherford Institute of Charlottesville, Virginia and John B. Donohue, Jr., Esquire of Richmond, Virginia to represent Oracle in its appeal of the Board’s discriminatory decision. Citing violations of the U.S. Constitution, the Virginia Constitution, and other federal, state, and local laws, Oracle filed an appeal with the Circuit Court of Grayson County on July 9, 2010. Ultimately, the County settled the lawsuit and granted the Peace Pentagon permit on December 13, 2011.

This portion of the Oracle website archives some of the press annoucnements concerning the First Amendment lawsuit. We also support the work of The Rutherford Institute by posting articles, blogs, and videos produced by its founder John Whitehead. Lastly, this portion of the Oracle website is dedicated to social justice, humanitarian rights, and freedom of religion, as succinctly set forth in the Oracle Institute Mission Statement authored by founding father Thomas Jefferson.

May the Oracle Retreat Center soon manifest along the banks of
the New River in Independence, Virginia.

Please join us in a discussion of the lawsuit at Laura’s blogsite

And please follow the critical Constitutional reporting of The Rutherford Institute You can access Rutherford’s videos here; You can access Rutherford’s articles here.

 

Oracle founder Laura George and John Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute
Discuss the Interfaith Retreat Center Lawsuit on Radio Islam
Recorded July 8, 2011

Listen to Laura's live radio interview

Listen to John Whitehead's live radio interview

 

 

A Test of Faiths

By Susan Kinzie, Published: July 7, 2011
INDEPENDENCE, Va. — In a clearing on a hill along a curve of the New River where apple trees bloom, Laura George wants to build a place for people of all faiths to gather in spiritual harmony.

Just one problem: Most people around here don’t seem to want any part of it.

Last year, prayer groups sprang up to stop her after the county planning commission unanimously approved her proposal for an interfaith retreat with a “Peace Pentagon” spiritual education center, public library and 10 cabins for guests. So many people filled the board of supervisors’ hearing that the panel had to move into a courtroom upstairs. After pastors and others spoke at the hearing, many warning that it was anti-Christian, a cult and a threat to the community, the board killed the project.

Click here to read the rest of the story at The Washington Post website.

 


 

 

The Religious Fanatics Are Already Here

By A. Barton Hinkle, Published: July 19, 2011
Religious fundamentalists threaten the American way of life by seeking to impose their will upon us, because they hate our freedoms. So say lawmakers in a growing number of (mostly Bible Belt) states who have introduced measures to forbid the use of Shariah law in state courts. The lawmakers are like the woman in Kansas who recited a special chant to keep the Bengal tigers away. Informed that there were no Bengal tigers, she replied that the chant must be working.

The likelihood that civic authorities in Alabama or Georgia will start taking orders from Islamic fanatics by, say, issuing fatwas seems remote. As for whether civic authorities might start taking orders from Bible-thumping Christian fundamentalists — well, better ask Laura George.

Click here to read the rest of the story at the Richmond Times Dispatch website.

 

The Rutherford Institute
Nisha Mohammed
(434)978-3888 ext. 604
Nisha@Rutherford.org

For Immediate Release: April 27, 2011

VICTORY: Circuit Court Green-Lights Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Against Planning Board That Denied Permit for Spiritual Retreat Center

INDEPENDENCE, VA — A Virginia Circuit Court has given the green light to a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by The Rutherford Institute on behalf of The Oracle Institute and its founder, Laura George, who was denied a permit to develop a spiritual retreat center on privately-owned land near the New River. Judge Brett Geisler denied a motion by Grayson County (Virginia) and its Board of Supervisors to dismiss the lawsuit, opening the way for a May 5 trial in the case on claims that Grayson County officials deprived Oracle and George of their rights to freedom of religion, freedom of speech and equal protection of the law in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the U.S. and Virginia constitutions.

A copy of The Rutherford Institute’s complaint in The Oracle Institute et al. v. Bd. of Supervisors of Grayson County is available at www.rutherford.org.

“This is a victory for religious freedom,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “The Oracle Institute has a right to be treated fairly and without discrimination and in the same manner as other religious institutions.".”

The Oracle Institute is an educational charity dedicated to promoting spiritual enlightenment through study of the scriptures and teachings of the world's religions. Oracle's founder, Laura George, submitted an application to the Grayson County Planning Commission for a zoning permit to allow Oracle to establish a retreat center on privately-owned property near the New River in Grayson County. George intended for the proposed retreat center to serve as a meeting place for spiritual development and meditation. The retreat center would also offer recreational activities, such as camping, kayaking and hiking; community classes, such as environmental protection and sustainability, spirituality and religion and culture and the arts; nature retreats; and a community library. On May 18, 2010, the Commission unanimously approved the application and referred it to the Board of Supervisors for final approval pending a public hearing.

According to the complaint, approximately 175 people attended the June 10 hearing. Of these, more than a dozen local ministers and 25 of their parishioners made statements urging the Board of Supervisors to deny Oracle's application because of the group's religious beliefs. Specifically, the pastors urged the Board not to allow Oracle to locate in the community because Oracle's inter-faith beliefs and philosophy do not mesh with the Christian beliefs of their community. One speaker allegedly warned that if the Board approved the permit application, this would be the last term for its members.

Thereafter, the Board voted unanimously to deny the application, citing “public health and safety” reasons and concerns about damage to the view shed of the New River. However, as Rutherford Institute attorneys point out in their complaint, the Board approved plans in 2007 for a state prison, including a bridge over the river, to be built in that view shed. Two years later, in 2009, the Board approved plans for a 150-unit trailer park community for retired Christians to be built along the river.

 

For Immediate Release: July 21, 2010

Rutherford Institute Files Religious Discrimination Lawsuit against Grayson County Board of Supervisors for Denying Permit for Interfaith Retreat Center

INDEPENDENCE, VA — The Rutherford Institute has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors of Grayson County, Virginia, charging that they discriminated against a local resident when they refused to allow her to develop privately-owned land near the New River for an spiritual retreat center. The complaint alleges that Grayson County officials deprived Laura George, president of The Oracle Institute, of her rights to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and equal protection of the law in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the U.S. and Virginia constitutions.

A copy of The Rutherford Institute’s complaint in The Oracle Institute et al. v. Bd. of Supervisors of Grayson County is available at www.rutherford.org.

“The Oracle Institute has a right to be treated fairly and without discrimination and in the same manner as other religious institutions,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “While the Constitution assures the right of religious freedom, Congress recognized the need for further safeguards, especially in relation to zoning issues, and passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Hopefully, Grayson County officials will recognize the error of their ways in this matter and act in accordance with federal law.”

The Oracle Institute is an educational charity dedicated to promoting spiritual enlightenment through study of the scriptures and the teachings of the world’s religions. Oracle’s founder, Laura George, submitted an application to the Grayson County Planning Commission for a zoning permit to allow Oracle to establish a retreat center on privately-owned property near the New River in Grayson County. George intended for the proposed retreat center to serve as a meeting place for spiritual development and meditation. The retreat center would also offer recreational activities, such as camping, kayaking and hiking; community classes, such as environmental protection and sustainability, spirituality and religion, and culture and the arts; nature retreats; and a community library.

On May 18, 2010, the Commission unanimously approved the application and referred it to the Board of Supervisors for final approval pending a public hearing. According to the complaint, approximately 175 people attended the June 10 hearing. Of these, more than a dozen local ministers and 25 of their parishioners made statements urging the Board of Supervisors to deny Oracle’s application because of the group’s religious beliefs. Specifically, the pastors urged the Board not to allow Oracle to locate in the community because Oracle’s inter-faith beliefs and philosophy do not mesh with the Christian beliefs of their community. One speaker allegedly warned that if the Board approved the permit application, this would be the last term for its members.

Thereafter, the Board voted unanimously to deny the application, citing “public health and safety” reasons and concerns about damage to the view shed of the New River. However, as Rutherford Institute attorneys point out in their complaint, the Board approved plans in 2007 for a state prison, including a bridge over the river, to be built in that view shed. Two years later, in 2009, the Board approved plans for a 150-unit trailer park community for retired Christians to be built along the river.

 

 

 

For Immediate Release: December 14, 2011

VICTORY: Grayson County Board of Supervisors Green-Lights Development of Spiritual Retreat Center in Response to Rutherford Institute Lawsuit

INDEPENDENCE, Va. — In response to a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, the Grayson County Board of Supervisors has finally agreed to allow a spiritual retreat center to be built on privately-owned land near the New River. The Board initially denied The Oracle Institute’s request for a Special Use Permit in June 2010, allegedly due to public animosity regarding Oracle’s promotion of inter-faith beliefs. In granting the permit after a public hearing on December 13, 2011, the Board paves the way for a final settlement of the lawsuit.

“This is a victory for religious freedom,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “The Oracle Institute has a right to be treated fairly and without discrimination and in the same manner as other religious institutions.”

The Oracle Institute is an educational charity dedicated to promoting spiritual enlightenment through study of the scriptures and teachings of the world’s religions. Oracle’s founder, Laura George, submitted an application to the Grayson County Planning Commission for a zoning permit to allow Oracle to establish a retreat center on privately-owned property near the New River in Grayson County. George intended for the proposed retreat center to serve as a meeting place for spiritual development and meditation. The retreat center would also offer recreational activities, such as camping, kayaking and hiking; community classes, such as environmental protection and sustainability, spirituality and religion and culture and the arts; nature retreats; and a community library.

On May 18, 2010, the Commission unanimously approved the application and referred it to the Board of Supervisors for final approval pending a public hearing. Approximately 175 people reportedly attended the June 10 hearing. Of these, more than a dozen local ministers and 25 of their parishioners allegedly made statements urging the Board of Supervisors to deny Oracle’s application because of the group’s religious beliefs. Specifically, the pastors urged the Board not to allow Oracle to locate in the community because Oracle’s inter-faith beliefs and philosophy do not mesh with the Christian beliefs of their community. One speaker allegedly warned that if the Board approved the permit application, this would be the last term for its members. Thereafter, the Board voted unanimously to deny the application, citing “public health and safety” reasons and concerns about damage to the view shed of the New River. However, the Board had approved plans in 2007 for a state prison, including a bridge over the river, to be built in that view shed. Two years later, in 2009, the Board approved plans for a 150-unit trailer park community for retired Christians to be built along the river.

In filing suit against the County in Oracle’s defense, Rutherford Institute attorneys charged that the County and its officials deprived Oracle and George of their rights to freedom of religion, freedom of speech and equal protection of the law in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the U.S. and Virginia constitutions. In April 2011, Judge Brett Geisler denied a motion by the County to dismiss the lawsuit, allowing the case to proceed to trial claims. Affiliate attorney Jack Donohue of Richmond, Virginia, is assisting The Rutherford Institute with the lawsuit.

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