UO and its emeritus president reflect on the 30th anniversary of Rajneeshees in Oregon

The April 1 event explores the controversy surrounding Oregon’s most notorious communal experiment

EUGENE, Ore. – (March 24, 2014) – In 1983, Oregon Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer issued an opinion—and soon thereafter filed a lawsuit—challenging the incorporation of Rajneeshpuram, a communal city near the small town of Antelope, in Wasco County, Ore. citing that it violated the separation of church and state. Rajneeshpuram, situated in the midst of a 64,000-acre ranch, had been established as an intentional community in 1981 by a group of followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and was given incorporated status following a county election.

By 1984, the controversy peaked when commune members were caught up in numerous legal battles. They soon were conspiring to harm federal, state and local officials, as well as some of their own commune members, who took positions against them.

In 1985, U.S. District Court Judge Helen Frye ruled in favor of the state of Oregon, rendering the status of the three-year-old Rajneeshpuram invalid. Soon thereafter, leaders fled Oregon to escape prosecution, and the commune collapsed.

On Tuesday, April 1, the University of Oregon Libraries will recognize the 30th anniversary of the controversy that rocked Oregon and the nation at the time. Entitled “The Rajneeshees in Oregon: A Communal Experiment,” the symposium will begin at 10 a.m. with a viewing of ABC reporter Ted Koppel’s televised interview with Ma Anand Sheela, Rajneesh’s secretary and de facto leader of Rajneeshpuram.

At 10:30 a.m., Oregon Public Broadcasting’s documentary film “Rajneeshpuram” will be shown, followed by video clips of Rajneesh-related materials held in the UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives.

At 1:30 p.m., a panel discussion featuring UO President Emeritus Dave Frohnmayer, UO Professor Emeritus Marion Goldman, and Professor Emeritus Roshani Shay, from Western Oregon University, will offer insights into the lasting effect that Rajneeshpuram and its inhabitants had on our region. A reception will follow the panel discussion. All sessions will be held in Knight Library’s Browsing Room, 1501 Kincaid Street, on the UO campus.

An exhibit of rarely seen items from the Rajneesh Artifacts and Ephemera Collection and other holdings in Special Collections and University Archives will be on display in Knight Library during the symposium.

The symposium is cosponsored by the Oregon Humanities Center, UO Department of History, Department of Sociology and School of Law.

Media Contact: Ron Renchler, strategic communications and writing specialist, UO Libraries, 541-346-1459, ronr@uoregon.edu

Source: Linda Long, manuscripts librarian, UO Libraries, 541-346-1906, llong@uoregon.edu